Yogurt adds a cool note to summertime eating, as a herby highlight to chicken, or a lighter raspberry buffoon to end the day. Plus, how to make your own labneh
If there is a theme running through this summers cooking it is that of yogurt and its strained and lightly salted cousin labneh. At breakfast, I favor the wake-up-call sharpness of sheeps milk yoghurt, often with a glowing puree of alphonso mango and a softly sweetened compote of blueberries or blackcurrants. Utilized as replacement for some of the cream in a fruit fool, the refreshingly acidic notes of goats milk yogurt flatters the flavours of apricots, strawberries and raspberries, as well as attaining the dessert less rich. Homemade labneh, attained with thick yogurt left to strain overnight through a muslin, has been in my fridge all summertime long. I use it as it comes, or with basil and mint threaded through and maybe a little black pepper. Cold for the refrigerator it accompanies lamb and chicken from the grill, and last week I used it to stuff aubergines with shredded cucumber and garlic. The blander, sweeter cows milk range can be used for this.
You will need a large square of cheesecloth.
Makes about 500 g
ocean salt 1 tsp
strained yogurt 500 g
Stir the salt into the strained yogurt. Line a sieve with a piece of cheesecloth( a new J cloth will do at a pushing ), then suspend it over a bowl. Rub the yogurt into the lined sieves, place the sieve and bowl in the refrigerator and leave to drip overnight. By morning you will have a thick cream that will hold its shape. Should you want something spreadable, then you could leave it for another 24 hours.
Stuffed aubergine with labneh and cucumber
I love the soft, luscious stuffed aubergines of the Countries of the middle east, especially when they are allowed to stand after cooking and can be eat only warm and when their flavor have time to marry. Rather than the usual tomato and onion stuffing, earlier this week I made a freshening filling with salted yogurt, cucumber and the flesh of the roasted aubergine. The recipe involved two textures of cucumber, one soft and mildy salted, the other fresh crisp. Both were folded, together with the soft aubergine into the labneh and stuffed into the aubergine shell with sesame and dill. One of those dishes that is pleasing warm or cold.
cucumber 1 large
salt 1 tsp
small, plump aubergines 4
olive oil 8 tbsp
a head of garlic
labneh 200 g
sesame seeds 2 tbsp
dill a handful
rose petals ( optional)
Set the oven at 200 C/ gas mark 6. Peel the cucumber, slice in half lengthways then, using a teaspoon, remove and discard the seedy core. Coarsely grate the cucumber, employing the largest matchstick disc on the food processor.
Divide the cucumber into two pilings, place one half in a sieve balancing over a bowl, sprinkle with the teaspoon of salt then leave in a cool place for an hour. This will introduce a soft, silky texture. Set the other half in a bowl, encompas and refrigerate.
Halve the aubergines lengthways, then score them, nearly through to the skin, in a lattice style. This promotes the olive oil to penetrate more thoroughly. Place the aubergines snugly and cut side up in a roast tin, trickle over the olive oil, add the whole head of garlic, unpeeled, to the tin, then cook for about 45 minutes until the aubergines flesh is soft and totally tender.
Remove the aubergines from the oven and rub their flesh into a bowl, returning each empty scalp to the tin. Peel the garlic, squeezing the soft, creamy filling into the warm aubergine flesh. Squeeze the salted cucumber dry in your hand, then add, together with the matchsticks of crisp cucumber to the aubergine. Season with black pepper. Add the labneh, then fold the ingredients together.
Spoon the filling into the aubergine skins. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry, shallow pan till golden, chop the dill and, if you are using them, the rose petals. Mix the seeds, dill and petals then scatter over the fill and serve.
Grilled chicken, herb labneh
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