If you love Middle Eastern food you've probably fallen for labneh, a soft cheese made from strained yogurt. It's essentially a cream cheese but much healthier because during the process the yogurt gets slightly fermented so it's great for gut health.
In our house it's pretty much a staple and we have it on toast at breakfast, the kids have it on sambos for lunch and it gets pulled out of the fridge for snacks throughout the afternoon. It's also something I serve as part of a mezze spread or as a picky thing with flatbreads when dinner is (slowly)working its way to the table and people can't wait.
If you make your own you can add your own flavours to it and it really is a great vehicle for stronger flavours. I always add a little salt but after that it varies - think garlicky greens, roast tomatoes or ndjua.
Or, I add other flavours to the labneh while I make it. A little garlic and/or lemon zest is great as are herbs and spices. What really brings it to the next level though is a liberally drizzle of olive oil. There's something so good about the combination of creamy labneh and velvety oil. I think olive oil made with arbequina olives works especially well. Arbequina has a sweet and delicate profile that is perfect foil for a fresh and slightly tart labneh.
At the moment my favourite oil to pair with labneh is Nobleza del Sur's Arbequina, an oil so beautifully delicate that it goes perfectly with lighter dishes. Cortiquo Spiritu Santo's Arbequina is gorgeous too.
Labneh with garlic and herbs
1 500gr tub of Greek yogurt
The zest of 1 lemon
1 fat clove garlic crushed.
A handful of finely chopped herbs -parsley, coriander, basil, chives whatever you have
Line a sieve with a muslim or linen cloth. Spoon in the yogurt then tie up the cloth and hang it over a bowl (an overhanging tap at the kitchen sink also works well). Leave for about 4 or 5 hours and let gravity do the work. If you’re in a hurry (but who is these days?) you can squeeze the cloth and wring out the liguid faster. Stop when you have the texture you want - I like something slightly softer than shop-bought cream cheese.
Then, stir in the lemon zest , 1 fat clove of garlic crushed and , salt and pepper. Liberally drizzle with olive oil and eat with fresh bread, toast or crackers. This recipe makes quite a bit but it keeps well for 5 -7 days in the fridge if you decant it into a little container and cover with oil. You can also roll it into balls and store in a jar of olive oil for several weeks tucked away in the fridge ready for snacking.