Labneh is a staple in my fridge. It is versatile and we love to lather it on to toasted bread or roti for a quick breakfast on the run, or serve it with crackers over drinks. Imagine my delight when on my recent trip to Jordan I discovered that it was possible to ‘pickle’ it! This meant I could share my love for both, labneh and pickles, with friends in one jar!
At home, we are not drinking much milk these days and I end up turning most of it into dahi. When I run out of containers to make dahi in and it’s staring at me from every shelf in the fridge, it’s time for labneh-making. Now, it seems I have an even better deal with these labneh balls. I have served them earlier as cheese balls rolled in nuts and spices but didn’t know that I could put them in a jar, drown them in olive oil and have another pickle of sorts on my hand. They have their own name too – Labneh Korat (Balls of Labneh!). They make a handy addition to a breakfast or mezze spread.
So here is this traditional Levantine recipe for my pickle and preserve loving readers. To prepare the labneh for making balls it needs to be drained longer than for making a regular creamy spread; 12 hours or overnight should do the job. Place a large piece of muslin over a non-reactive pot and tip dahi into it, mix in a good amount of salt – most of it will drain away anyway with the whey. Tie into a bundle and hang to drain overnight. Untie and transfer the drained dahi into a bowl. Taste and mix in more salt, if needed. Labneh served in Jordan is extremely salty which also helps preserve it for longer. Preserved this way it can stay for six months to a year!
Labneh balls in oil
well-drained yoghurt (chakka)
optional flavourings: chopped garlic and walnuts, chilli flakes
Take spoonfuls of labneh and roll into balls. I used two spoons to do this, a little in the manner of making a quenelle. Apply a little olive oil on your palms and do the final rolling between the palms of your hands to get a smooth ball. I rolled half the balls in a mix of chopped walnuts, minced garlic, coarse salt, and chilli flakes, and the other half with just garlic and salt. The coatings are entirely optional but yogurt, garlic, and walnuts are such a classic combination! Transfer all balls to clean jars and pour over with good olive oil. Cover the balls completely with the oil, screw the lids tight, and store in a cool place. For our hot climate, I suggest you refrigerate your jars.
To serve, remove labneh korak to a serving plate along with some of the oil. Garnish with minced fresh or dry mint or sprinkle a little sumac and serve with any flat bread of choice.
Note: Mine may not be immersed fully in oil but that is because I am expecting to use most of these tomorrow when I host a party for around 40 young people! 🙂