This entry is dedicated to my cousins Dina and Yasmin (aka Rita), my Aunt Kiki and the rest of the family who showed me such an amazing time while I was visiting the Middle East, shukran jazeelan!!
In the Middle East, goat milk is king. It’s rich and tangy, and has a lot less lactose than cow milk. Although I don’t use goat milk in my cereal or for dunking cookies, when it comes to cooking, goat milk is phenomenal. I find it has a much deeper and sharper taste than cow’s milk, and it adds an authentic flavor when used in Middle Eastern recipes.
While I was travelled in the Middle East, I enjoyed strolling through the different outdoor markets (souks) and admiring how store owners were true artisans of their culinary crafts. It was just as I remembered it in Aladdin, only it was real and even more chaotic. Markets were divided into categories such as meats, spices, nuts, dairy and so forth, creating the perfect competition necessary for bargaining.
Every morning my aunt and I enjoyed a variety of mezze while watching her favorite news anchor read the daily horoscope. A few of the neighbors would stop by for Turkish coffee, served with a side of gossip, and they took turns reading each others coffee cups. This is a popular pastime among women in the Middle East.
Aside from all the amazing memories I’ve created from my travels, I also made sure to inquire about every single recipe that crossed my plate. Labne, which is essentially strained yogurt, was one of those recipes. Making the yogurt from scratch with the freshest goat milk will yield a more authentic product, but this recipe is versatile and adapts well to regular cow’s milk, or even sheep’s milk.
If you are in need of a (relatively quick) labne fix, you could always strain store-bought plain yogurt. And if you could get your hands on goat yogurt, even better. However, for the food aficionados and for those those looking for some culinary therapy, take the scenic route and make your own yogurt at home.
Once you’ve made your yogurt as directed on the package of your preferred yogurt starter, refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.
I gave up on cheese cloths a long time ago and started using a clean undershirt to strain my yogurt. It’s a lot cheaper, it’s reusable and you could fit a lot more yogurt per batch. However you decide to strain your yogurt is up to you, but make sure to stir salt into the yogurt before setting aside to strain (approximately ½ tsp. of salt per cup of yogurt).
Labne (strained yogurt)
(yields approx. 2½ cups)
- 8 cups of plain yogurt (cow or goat milk)
- 4 tsp. salt (½ tsp. per cup of yogurt)
- Dried mint
- Aleppo pepper
- extra virgin olive oil
Putting them all together
- Mix the salt into the yogurt and stir until dissolved.
- Strain for approximately 12 hours or until you’ve reached a thick sour cream consistency.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- To plate, sprinkle with dried mint, Aleppo pepper, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Serve with pita bread or pita chips.