Minted Yoğurt Balls

Labne

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When I first heard of a Middle-Eastern cheese called labne I was intrigued, but I refrained from using it in my restaurant because I thought it was Lebanese. Then I discovered that the name comes from laban, an Egyptian-Arabic word formilk’, that it is just strained yoğurt, treated with a little lemon and salt; and that it can be found all over Turkey under the name süzme. The Lebanese like to dip their labne in zaatar, and the Egyptians dip them in dukka, but I thought I’d be Turkish and use mint and sumac.

Ingredients

  • 1 garlic clove
  • tablespoons salt
  • 1.4 kg (3 lb 2 oz) plain yoğurt
  • juice of ¼ lemon
  • 1 mint stalk
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons dried mint
  • 3 teaspoons sumac
  • 2 teaspoons chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon dill tips (or dried dill)

Method

Crush the garlic with 1 teaspoon of salt, then mix with the yoğurt and lemon juice.

Place the yoğurt mixture on a sheet of muslin (cheesecloth), tie up the corners and hang over a pot for 12 hours to drain. The yoğurt should thicken to a cream cheese consistency.

Mould the thickened yoğurt into spheres about the size of a ping-pong ball. This quantity should make about fifteen balls.

Gently place the labne into a large jar with the fresh mint, cover with olive oil, and then set aside to rest for at least 24 hours.

When you’re ready to serve, combine the herbs and salt on a plate and roll the balls in the mix, one at a time. Serve on a platter in the middle of the table for people to help themselves.