Iraqi Labneh: a love story

In bread. On eggs. With honey. And tomatoes. A spoonful here. A spoonful there. Lebneh is quite possibly my favorite food in the whole world. It was introduced to me at a very young age by my mother. I have this memory, a picture my brothers drew of me completely covered in lebneh. It was one of those Quinten Blake-esque drawings, like the ones in The Twits. You know, the one with Mr. Twit's messy beard and all the arrows pointing to all the little particles stuck in it. There was a drawing of me just like that. I was notorious for putting this creamy deliciousness on the strangest of things. 

tomatoes, avocado, salt & pepper atop lebneh smothered toast

tomatoes, avocado, salt & pepper atop lebneh smothered toast

What is lebneh, you ask? 

Oh, let me tell you. A unique gift of the Middle East. A yogurt. Unlike any yogurt. strained yogurt. It is strained of all excess water, and thus becomes extremely thick and creamy. Almost like cream cheese or maybe sour cream, but still with that wonderfully tangy yogurty taste. Think about it. Cream cheese can be put on bread, topped with honey, made into a cake, or even spread inside a tomato sandwich. And sour cream can go on eggs and meats and all sorts of things. Well, lebneh can act as both, and more. Even as a fluffing agent for muffins and cakes. 

lebneh baked into banana-espresso muffins

lebneh baked into banana-espresso muffins

Lebneh has become much easier to find in the last few years, but, before this sudden emergence, the only way to gain access to such joy was to make it yourself. Thankfully my mother would make it. Regularly. There was always lebneh in my house, growing up. Now, living on my own, I can easily go to Whole Foods or Trader Joe's or Jons to pick some up, BUT what I have noticed is that not one of these places carries organic lebneh.

Not a single one. Not even Whole Foods. Shame.

This is what brings me to my mother's house for two days. To finally learn how to make lebneh. It's a 2 day process, but definitely worth it. I used organic whole milk, with organic low fat plain yogurt as my starter. Usually low fat yogurt is frowned upon, but I was in a hurry upon making my purchases. It turned out really spectacular, regardless. You simply use these two ingredients. Let the milk boil, then remove from heat. When it's warm, add the yogurt. Put it in the fridge overnight. The next day, place a large piece of cheesecloth in a straining bowl, add the mixture, and allow to drain until thick. Et voila! Lebneh. And now you, too, can do whatever you want with it!

lebneh-agave frosting atop ginger cupcakes

lebneh-agave frosting atop ginger cupcakes

Just trust me on this one.