The mezze feast continues today with labne balls.
These little balls were a complete hit and they are very simple to make. We ate them with pita and Turkish bread. They would be great to serve at a party alongside, or instead of, dips. This recipe was inspired by Christine Manfield in Fire and Greg Malouf in The Cook’s Book.
Labne is basically yoghurt with much of the whey strained away, so that it becomes a cross between yoghurt and cheese. To make the balls, you must first make the labne. You will need to start this about two days ahead.
I made mine by emptying a 1kg tub of thick Greek-style yoghurt into a sieve lined with a double layer of (clean) chux. (All the books say to use muslin, but chuxes are much easier to come by and they work just as well.) I secured the chux with pegs, as you can see. I placed the sieve over a metal bowl and covered it with cling-wrap. I then placed this whole contraption in the fridge for three nights. You could probably get away with straining it for two nights, depending on the yoghurt that you use.
(Malouf has suggested mixing the yoghurt with garlic and salt before you strain it. I think this is a brilliant idea, though I did not do it because I read this post-straining.)
When the yoghurt was firm enough, I rolled it into small balls between my hands. This made about 14 balls.
I then rolled some balls in dukkah mixed with fresh parsley, and other balls in za’atar mixed with fresh parsley.
The dukkah was store-bought, but the za’atar was not. To make za’atar, simply mix 2 parts roasted sesame seeds to 1 part dried thyme and 1 part ground sumac (and some salt). This little mixture also tastes great sprinkled on pita dipped in oil.
Malouf has also suggested a whole range of sweet and savoury variations for these little balls. For example, he has advised adding mustard, harissa, paprika or saffron to the yoghurt prior to straining (and not rolling it in the herb and spice mixtures). He has also said that labne can be turned into a sweet version by adding, for example, rosewater or honey prior to straining. This could be served with fruit or cakes.
As they say, you are only limited by your imagination…