• Jewel box labne balls. (Benito Martin)Source: Benito Martin

What’s a party without a cheeseboard? Go for a healthier option and make your own labneh, an addictively creamy yoghurt cheese, eaten all over the Middle East. Labneh is simply strained yoghurt. 

Makes
20

Preparation

20min

Skill level

Easy
By
Average: 4.3 (13 votes)
Yum

The longer you leave the yoghurt to drain, the firmer it becomes. After about 12 hours, the labneh is a creamy mascarpone consistency (which is great to add to dishes as you would feta or use to top pizza). For this recipe, though, the labneh needs to be a thicker consistency, like cream cheese, so you can roll it into balls, so you want to hang it for about 48 hours.

There’s nothing difficult about it - you just need to start a couple of days before your party. We’ve rolled the labneh balls in savoury coatings - choose as many as you like. You could do sweet versions too (or a mix of both).

Ingredients

  • 1 kg thick natural yoghurt (see Tips)
  • 2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • olive oil, for greasing

 

Your choice of coatings

  • black sesame seeds and cumin seeds (ratio 4:1)
  • za’atar
  • Aleppo pepper, Kashmiri red chilli powder or sweet paprika
  • dried rose petals 
  • roughly chopped pistachios and dried mint (ratio 4:½)
  • slivered almonds and turmeric (ratio 4:½) 
  • smoked almond, grated orange zest, saffron, extra virgin olive oil 

 

To serve

  • crackers or flatbread

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.

Instructions

Yields: 550 g

Draining time: 48 hours

Equipment: muslin cloth or a clean Chux

  1. Strain the yoghurt. Place a sieve over a medium mixing bowl. Line the sieve with a piece of double-layered muslin or clean Chux, about 60 cm x 40 cm. Pour the yoghurt into the centre of the muslin and sprinkle over the salt. Bring the opposite corners together and tie in a very tight knot. Place in the fridge to let the whey (the liquid) drain from the yoghurt for 48 hours. Check to make sure the muslin bag is not sitting in the whey, give the muslin a squeeze and re-tighten. 
  2. Roll the labneh into balls. Remove the labneh from the fridge (you can save the whey to use in cooking, see Tips) and unwrap.  Using lightly oiled hands, roll the labneh into walnut-sized balls, about 1½ tablespoons (see Tips). 
  3. Roll in coatings of your choice. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

 

Tips

• You can use cow’s, sheep’s, goat’s or buffalo milk yoghurt - just make sure you choose one that doesn’t have thickeners, gelatine or other emulsifiers in it.

• Whey is great to use in salad dressings, to marinate meats or in baking (like you would buttermilk).

• You can roll the labneh into balls and store them completely covered in olive oil in the fridge until ready to coat. They will keep for up to 1 week stored like this. When you’re ready to coat, drain them well and gently roll on paper towel to remove the excess oil.

 

Photography by Benito Martin, styling by Lynsey Fryers, food preparation by O Tama Carey and creative concept by Belinda So.

 

View more recipes in our Eat Better, Live Better collection, created in partnership with Medibank.