Sweet endings: Labneh
Andrea Burgener revisits the art of labneh
Labneh, the fresh curd cheese made from drained yoghurt, is traditionally served as a savoury item - rolled into little balls and kept in olive oil, or served fresh, dolloped into a bowl and used much as you would humus. It can, however, be a sweet thing too, yoghurt swinging both ways as it does. This version, made with creamy yoghurt slightly sweetened with maple syrup, rolled in chopped pistachio nuts and served with spice-poached fruit, is ridiculously delicious.
SWEET LABNEH BALLS WITH PRESERVED FRUIT AND PISTACHIOS
Serves 2 (makes about 250ml)
500ml (2 cups) full-cream real yoghurt (sometimes 'pretend' yoghurts made with cornstarch or other binding agents won't separate back into liquid and solid, so use real yoghurt with just milk and cultures in it)
15ml (1 tbsp) maple syrup (use plain golden syrup if you don't have real maple; the taste of the fake maple is overbearing)
125ml (½ cup) chopped pistachio nuts (hazelnuts are also great here, but pistachios win on looks)
Good bottled fruit, in syrup (I like to use pears poached in a star anise-spiked syrup, but apples and prunes also work well. You could also serve the labneh with fresh chopped fruit that's been macerated in sweetened orange juice)
Juice and zest of ½ a lemon (the syrup can otherwise be cloying)
Line a colander or sieve with a very clean kitchen towel/dishcloth (el cheapo style with loose weave) and place it over a deep bowl. Mix the yoghurt and syrup together, plonk into the cloth and close the cloth over the mass loosely. Leave in the fridge until enough whey has drained off for the yoghurt curds to be firm enough to shape. This can take anywhere from 24 hours to 3 days.
Remove the curds from the fridge, and roll into litchi-sized balls.
Put the pistachios on a plate, then roll the labneh balls through the nuts to coat evenly. This can be done up to a few hours before serving. When ready to eat, divide the nubbly little balls between two shallow bowls and add a few spoons of syrupy fruit (the labneh likes quite a bit of liquid). Squeeze lemon juice over everything and grate the lemon zest over the dish nano-seconds before serving.
Unlike savoury labneh, you can't store this in olive oil so shelf life is short - about the same as the yoghurt it is made from.