Labne Two Ways
Words, Images & Recipe by Sam Hillman
“‘I don’t understand how a young couple can begin life by buying a sofa or a television,’ he said indignantly to me. ‘Don’t they know the table comes first?’ The table comes first. The table comes first, before the meal and even before the kitchen where it’s made. It precedes everything in remaining the one plausible hearth of family life, the raft to ride down the river of our existence even in the hardest times. The table also comes first in the sense that its drama – the people who gather at it, the conversation that flows across it, and the pain and the romance that happen around it – is more essential to our real lives, and also to the real life of food in the world, than any number of arguments about where the zucchini came from, and how far it had to travel before it got here. If our questions of food matter, it is because they imply most of the big fights about who we are – our notions of clan and nation, identity and the individual. Civilisation is mostly the story of how seeds, meats, and ways to cook them travel from place to place. The parts of that story are surely things that everyone should know, if only because they lead us to who we are.” -Adam Gopnik – The Table Comes First
This is a recipe perhaps more suited to a table, but just as fun in bed. There are two versions – which are lovely side by side, though if you decide to choose all sweet or all savoury, simply double the ingredients and don’t split in half. Serve both with a baguette.
1kg of Greek Yogurt
A pinch of good salt.
Line a strainer with a cheese-cloth and place over a large bowl. Mix the yogurt in with the salt. Pour the yogurt over the cheesecloth and place in the fridge for somewhere between 24 and 48 hours. You’re aiming for the full two days to drain as much liquid as possible – but one will do in a pinch.
Divide the yogurt into two bowls, one for each:
Honeyed Labne with Pomegranate and Hazelnut
-3 tablespoons of labne
-1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
-half a cup of hazelnuts, toasted and chopped
-Half a pomegranate
-small handful of mint
Stir the honey and vanilla into the labne.
Top with the hazelnuts, pomegranate and mint.
Labne with Olive Oil and Za’tar
-2 tablespoons of olive oil
-a few sprigs of thyme
Drizzle over about two tablespoons of good olive oil, a few sprigs of thyme and za’tar*. Cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours to infuse the flavours a tad more.
Serve both with a baguette, toasted.
*za’tar is a Middle Eastern spice blend that you ought to have in your pantry at all times for its ability to make literally everything taste exciting.