Labneh -Three Different Flavors & Village Memories
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.
Some of the terraces I watered as a child.
Cabbage, broccoli, lettuce and tomatoes. I believe it’s green onions in the background.
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.
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.