I only recently discovered Labneh, and now I want it every day – classic with salad at lunch-time in the summer. It is very easy to make as well. It is a dish from the Levant (think of the countries south of Turkey, like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine) – east of the Mediterranean.
There are recipes everywhere once you start looking; this one is from Jerusalem
- Two tubs of thick plain yoghurt, around 500g each, could be greek style yoghurt, goats’ milk yoghurt
- 3/4 tsp salt
- Pour the yogurt into a large bowl. Stir in salt.
- Line another large bowl with a linen or muslin towel (or several layers of cheesecloth.) Pour the yogurt mixture into the towel. Pick up the edges of the towel and tie at the top. Hang from a kitchen sink faucet to drain for 24 to 48 hours. Alternatively, set a large sieve, lined with linen towel over a deep bowl. Add the yogurt mixture. Cover gently with the overhang of the linen towel, or another linen towel. Set aside on the counter, or in the fridge, to drain for 24-48 hours. I actually used a muslin intended for coping with babies, still new. I tied the tops over the yoghurt, and rigged up a thing with string and a wooden spoon over a deep bowl. You may need to empty the bowl at the bottom half-way. Also, it takes up a bit of space in the fridge.
To serve, spread labneh in a bowl and top with extra virgin olive oil, za’atar spice (or chopped fresh herbs like mint or parsley). Add fresh pitta, or other warm bread, on the side. Sliced vegetables, such as tomatoes, radishes, olives, are a good addition.
I have been storing the labneh in a plastic container in the fridge, and allegedly it will keep for a couple of weeks.
This is another recipe from Jerusalem by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi. It fits well with my lifestyle in summer; food that can be put in the oven, and then served hot or cold, straight away or for the next meal, part of a large meal or just as a light lunch.
- 1 Large butternut squash.
- 3 red onions
- 50ml olive oil
- 3 tbsp light tahini paste (available locally!)
- 1.5 tbsp lemon or lime juice
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- 30g pine nuts
- 1 tbsp za’atar (from Seasoned pioneers)
- 1 tbsp chopped parsley
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 240C gas mark 9
- Cut the onions and butternut squash into wedges. I peeled and cut each onion into 6-8 wedges. I cut the squash into 3 equal bits across the way, and then cut each bit into 6-8 wedges, measuring around 2cm by 6cm. Remove the seeds.
- Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, and add 3 tbsp of olive oil, stir to coat, and then add 1 tsp salt, black pepper and mix well.
- Spread the onions and squash onto a baking tray, and turn the squash skin-side down.
- Roast in the hot oven for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, use a small bowl and a fork to mix the tahini with the lemon juice, 2 tbsp water, crushed garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt. The mixture should be runny, like honey.
- Pour a little olive oil into a pan, and toast the pine nuts over a medium heat with a pinch of salt. Stir, keeping a close eye, until the pine nuts are toasty brown. Transfer to a small bowl.
- Put the roast vegetables onto a serving platter, drizzle over with the tahini dressing, sprinkle over with the toasted pine-nuts in oil, and then sprinkle over the za’atar and chopped parsley.
I enjoyed this better when cooled down to a warm dish, rather than hot. Also good cold the next day.
Another new recipe book with a middle eastern flavour, ‘Jerusalem’ by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. This book is actually not so new to me, but I haven’t used it much. But then we had visitors who were looking at it, and Hector came in with a large pollock. This makes 4 very large portions.
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 onions, peeled and sliced (1cm slices)
- 1 tbsp coriander seeds
- 2 peppers (red and/or yellow), sliced (1cm slices)
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 bayleaves
- 1 tbsp curry powder
- 1 can of chopped tomatoes
- 2-3 tsp sugar (I used basra date syrup instead)
- 5 tbsp cider vinegar
- 1 pollock, or around 500g of white fish, divided into pieces
- plain flour seasoned with salt and pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 190C
- Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a large pan, and add the onions with the coriander seeds. Cook on a medium heat for around five minutes.
- Add the peppers and cook for a further ten minutes
- Add the garlic, bayleaves, curry powder, and tomatoes. Cook for another eight minutes.
- Add sugar, vinegar, around 1 tsp salt and pepper, and cook together for another five minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the other 2 tbsp of oil in a frying pan. Sprinkle a little salt on the fish, dip into the seasoned flour and then into the egg, and fry each portion for around 3 minutes, turning once.
- In a casserole dish, add the fish and the cooked sauce, so that the fish is at the bottom of the pan. Add around 250ml hot water to ensure that the fish is immersed.
- Place the pan in the oven for 10-12 minutes until the fish is cooked. Remove from the oven and allow the curry to cool to room temperature.
This dish can be eaten warm, as it is. It is better after a night in the fridge. Try garnishing with coriander leaves. We served this with bread.