How to Make Soft Cheese (Labna)

I’ve seen many recipes for cheese, and fancied trying my hand at some of them, but then I’ve read the ingredients list; Seventeen Litres of milk and rennet for one small cheese does not seem worth the effort or expense. Then there is the equipment and time involved: thermometers to measure the milk at a precise temperature, for a precise amount of time, presses, forms, and who knows what else. Frankly, it’s a wonder the stuff ever got invented.

Then I found an old recipe for a Middle Eastern cheese called labna. It calls for only Greek Yoghurt and salt. To be honest, I was sceptical that such a simple recipe could work. If it were so easy to make cheese, why would people mess around with Rennet and Co anyway?

Why indeed? Because the finished cheese was far better than I ever hoped. Fresh and creamy, rather like Boursin, but much, much cheaper and very satisfying to make. The only effort was to give it the occasional squeeze as I walked past it, like you would your lover’s bottom.

The best bit about making my own cheese, was being able to embellish it any way I wanted. I used  pistachios, chives and cranberries, but the possibilities are endless. Use what you have in your cupboard, what is in season, or what you have a passion for. Smoked paprika, sun dried tomatoes, mango, walnuts, basil, chocolate chips, or plain. Form it into hearts, balls, tiny miniatures of your best friend’s face. I don’t think you can really go wrong.

Ingredients:

500g 10% fat yoghurt (do not bother with anything lower-fat for this recipe,)

1 Teaspoon salt

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Method:

Stir salt and yoghurt together.

Line a sieve with a piece of muslin or other thin, open weave cloth. Suspend the sieve over a bowl and fill with the yoghurt. Cover the yoghurt with the ends of the cloth to keep the beasties off.

Allow the water (whey) to drip out. If you want, you can speed the process up by squeezing the cloth. It should take between twelve and twenty four hours before you have a nice solid cheesy consistency.

Form your cheese and add whatever extras you are using. I made one plain cheese, and three small flavoured ones. The cranberry cheese was my favourite, but there was also a simple creamy deliciousness to the large unadulterated cheese.

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