Labneh is strained yoghurt. Now now, do bear with me, it’s delicious. You mix regular, full-fat Greek yoghurt with a scant half-teaspoon of salt then bung it in some muslin and hang it over a bowl overnight. Drip, drip, drip. In the morning all the whey has drained away and what remains is a creamy thick ‘yoghurt-cheese’. It’s magic scooped up with warmed flat breads and sprinkled with za’atar, smeared in a kebab, or rolled into balls, covered with herbs and stored in olive oil.* I’ve taken to eating it plain on walnut toast first thing too; the contrast of hot toast and cool, tangy topping really floats my breakfast boat.
Popular in the Middle East and South Asia, it pops up in mezze, sandwiches, dips and even desserts. It’s basically a flavour whore and will take whatever it can get.
When it comes to comfort snacking, I tend to top it with my salty little friends the anchovies; briny, umami-packed miniatures. First it was the boiled egg with anchovy dippers, then the baked eggs with the same. Now I can’t get enough of them slivered and draped over the labneh, prickled with chilli and sprinkled with whatever herbs are lying around, or perhaps some papery shavings of red onion.
Despite labneh’s surprising richness, I like to reason with myself that it’s fairly healthy; not that the fat content of anything has ever held me back, as I’m sure you’ve come to realise. A drizzle of olive oil is all that’s needed to counter the balance back towards gluttonsville though, so don’t worry about that.
Labneh with chilli and anchovy
500g good quality, full fat Greek yoghurt (I find Total is the best brand)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
Anchovy fillets, sliced in half lengthways
1 small mild red chilli, finely chopped
A few leaves parsley (or other herbs), finely chopped
Good bread, toasted, to serve
Muslin and string to strain the yoghurt
Mix the yoghurt with the salt then line a bowl with the muslin and dollop the yoghurt in the middle. Gather up the muslin then tie the top with string and hang somewhere (preferably cool, although I’ve never had a problem in my kitchen), over a bowl, overnight. In the morning remove from the muslin, mix in the lemon juice and refrigerate until needed. It will last a few days.
Spread on hot toast and top with the anchovies, chilli and herbs. Some black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil won’t go amiss.
* I’ll dig out a jar and post a piccy and recipe up for you; it’s really beautiful.
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