Labneh -Three Different Flavors & Village Memories

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I grew up on a farm for part of my life, during the turbulent civil war in Beirut, Lebanon. As many other Lebanese, we fled the city (many more left the country altogether), in search of refuge in the mountains. As every family traditionally hails from a village, we returned to our home village of Baskinta. My father, an international lawyer, built a farm where we grew and made just about everything. We were self-sustained, a practice my father still cherishes till today. So, when I was eight, I had the pleasure (or pain- when the thing decides to karate kick you) of milking a cow, picking apples and cherries for what seemed to be hours on end, watering garden terraces and making cheese, amongst them Labneh.

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Some of the terraces I watered as a child.

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Cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and tomatoes. I believe it’s green onions in the background.

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Passing through the village, stopping to take shade under a cherry tree.

Labneh is a Middle Eastern soft cheese made by straining yoghurt in a muslin cloth, for about 24 hours. It is commonly made using cow’s milk but goat’s milk is also used seasonally.

In Lebanon, labneh is enjoyed for breakfast drizzled with olive oil, zaatar (wild thyme and sesame seeds mixture), tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, fresh mint and of course, arabic bread-the thin mountain bread is the best with this. It is also served as part of a Mezza, where pounded garlic is added along with some freshly chopped mint. Now that is a delicacy! School-bound children are given tartines for lunch; usually arabic bread wraps lathered with labneh, zaatar and the child’s preferred condiments.

Although I absolutely love the classic labneh, I’m also the adventurous type.  I can’t help but experiment and add different ingredients I think will compliment each other.

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I made the classic labneh (left) using goat’s milk, a spicier version with red chillies, garlic, and dill and a sweet labneh using ginger and orange blossom honey. They were all a hit! Labneh should have a hint of sourness. It can also be made into balls and preserved in olive oil.

Labneh is very easy to make and I guarantee that once you give it a try, it is surely to become a staple in your household.

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Classic Labneh-Goat’s milk

  • 500g goat’s milk yoghurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (this helps to reduce the acidity and improves flavor)
  • 1 bowl
  • 1 colander
  • A couple of layers of muslin cloth, washed
  • kitchen rope

In a bowl mix the two ingredients.

Place the colander over a bowl. Line with the muslin cloth.

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Add the yoghurt mixture

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tie the muslin cloth.

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the whey (liquid) will collect in the bowl. Place in the fridge overnight or 24 hours.

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Do not discard the whey. You can use it in baking, soup,etc. It is full of minerals.

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Transfer the cheese to a serving dish, cover and keep in fridge till ready to serve. Labneh becomes more sour as it ages. It should keep well covered and chilled up to 2 weeks. If made into balls and preserved in olive oil, then it will keep a couple of months.

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Labneh with Garlic, Red Chillies and Dill

  • 500g full fat yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped red chili (about 1 chili)
  • 1 garlic clove, pounded
  • 1 tablespoon of finely chopped dill

In a bowl mix all the ingredients above. Place a colander in a bowl and line with muslin. Add the yoghurt mixture and tie the muslin using kitchen rope. Keep in fridge same as above.

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Ginger and Orange Blossom Honey Labneh

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  • 500g yoghurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of orange blossom honey (or plain honey and a teaspoon of orange blossom)
  • Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Then follow same directions to make classic labneh.

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17 Responses to “Labneh -Three Different Flavors & Village Memories”
  1. Melanie 29 July 2009 at 2:09 pm #

    I love labneh–thanks for the recipe and your photos are wonderful!!!

  2. schtief 29 July 2009 at 2:24 pm #

    thanks for the idea, will try it,
    but one question, you add herbs/salt/stuff before putting in the towel or after the 24h in the fridge, there is one photo with yoghurt in the towel without any herbs and one with.

  3. the graphic foodie 29 July 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    Wow, how beautiful does that all look and how nice to have grown up self sufficient. I must say I don’t know much about Lebanese food, so looking forward to the education!

  4. jo-c 29 July 2009 at 6:45 pm #

    I am ready for a DKS cookbook. It will be my new bible!! You just keep getting better and better. Please come to Maui and DIRTY my kitchen

  5. lamaKD 30 July 2009 at 5:47 am #

    I love the idea of the Labneh with Garlic, Red Chillies and Dill.. I crave it now, your pictures are so enticing.. will try it for sure :-) THNX!

  6. Bethany 30 July 2009 at 11:18 am #

    Melanie-Enjoy :)
    Schtief- I mix it all together in a bowl before adding to the muslin. The ginger and honey labneh will not change color…
    The graphic foodie: Looking forward myself. I love italian :)
    Jo-C: Very soon. Thank you :)
    Lama: It really is delicious, very easy to make, so go for it. And feel free to get creative, as im sure you will :)

  7. Jeena 30 July 2009 at 11:47 am #

    Lovely post Beth I liked reading about the farm and looking at those pictures.

    These recipes are great, I need to get some more muslin cloth but as soon as I do I will make this and let you know how it goes.

    Both look delicious!

  8. amale daniel 2 August 2009 at 4:08 pm #

    beth i love your ideas specially your memorable pictures of the labneh in the village. i had this morning for breakfast your menu’s labneh so delicious and tasty

  9. Choosy Beggar Tina 1 September 2009 at 9:10 am #

    Ooh, your labneh looks delicious!! Some people like peanut butter, but I think that labneh on toast is the real breakfast of champions. I have 4 jars of oil packed labneh in my fridge as we speak (presents from my precious aunties).

  10. Duncan 15 September 2009 at 6:11 pm #

    Garlic Red Chillies and Dill for me !!! definitely going to try this one – inspirational

  11. Lynn 13 October 2009 at 1:36 pm #

    so u’re from Baskinta, I am too!!!! who are u? who are ur parents?

  12. Jossie 30 October 2009 at 7:16 am #

    Perfection. I just made this. I have been living in Maui for 6 years and been deprived of the essential Lebanese breakfast. . . up until NOW!!! THANKKKKKS DKS =) !! The Labneh came out perfect, made me feel right at home, back in Lebanon.

    • Bethany 4 November 2009 at 3:49 pm #

      Thanks for letting me know how it went. Glad you enjoyed :)

  13. ekowk 18 November 2010 at 8:44 am #

    great recipe, thx’ s for the sharing.

    best regards

  14. Sophie James 13 April 2013 at 12:53 am #

    I love the idea of sweet labneh. Also, the beautiful and evocative photos and your backstory which guided us to the food in a way that gave real meaning and texture to the recipes. Thank you for this!

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