I'm never more excited about a weekend than when there is the prospect of a food festival, and this weekend sees the return of what is quite possibly my favourite of all local foodie events. The Melton Mowbray artisan cheese fair. With 61 artisan cheesemakers and over 300 varieties of cheese on sale Its the largest event of it's kind in the uk. Cheese is a bit of a passion in our household and there is some preparation undertaken in advance of this momentous occasion, a strict spending budget needs to be set (To then be ignored!) But most importantly the fridge needs to be cleared to make way for our cheese hoard. This year however we were a little over excited and found ourselves in the preceding week with no cheese. This doesn't happen very often in my house and does induce a certain amount of panic, but fortunately I have an emergency recipe up my sleeve.
Labneh holds it's origins in the middle east and is created by straining the whey from greek yoghurt. This results in a creamy tangy cheese, texturally it's almost akin to cream cheese but has so much more flavour. Cheesemaking can seem a daunting and highly technical pursuit but this recipe is really very simple, all you need is 2 ingredients, one of which is in fact optional. You also need just a little patience, but the end result is well worth it.
You will need:
- 500g full fat greek yoghurt
- A good pinch of salt, around half a tsp (optional)
- a cheese cloth or jay cloth for straining
- a wooden spoon and a measuring jug
Place the yoghurt and salt together in a mixing bowl and stir to combine. Transfer the yoghurt mix into the cheese cloth. Tie up the four corners of the cloth knotting them tightly around the wooden spoon then place the cloth, with spoon attached into the measuring jug, using the wooden spoon to suspend the cloth so the bottom of the straining cheese is a few cm away from the base of the jug. Adjust the tightness of the knotted cheese cloth as necessary to achieve this.
Place the jug into the fridge and allow to strain for 18 to 24 hours, the longer the cheese is left the firmer it will become, go for less time for a creamier texture.
The strained liquid can be used instead of water in the making of a loaf of bread, it will add a creaminess to the finished loaf and create a firmer crust.
Labneh makes an amazing addition to a meze style platter, simply place it into a bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. I like mine generously slathered over a nice slice of bread, preferably sourdough, and perhaps just a sprinkle of Dukkah just to keep with the middle Eastern theme.
If you are visiting the Melton Mowbray cheese fair this weekend have a great time and hope to see you there!