Mezze Platter, Labna – Yoghurt Cheese
1 kilo thick, plain, unsweetened yoghurt
2 teaspoons salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
finely chopped fresh herbs, smoked paprika, toasted cumin or fennel seeds, or lightly ground sumac
extra virgin olive oil
Flavouring suggestions: small dried chillies, bay leaves, whole peeled garlic cloves, toasted cumin, coriander or fennel seeds, sprigs of rosemary or thyme, wide strips of lemon peel
1 large, firm aubergine
red wine vinegar
1 shallot, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of salt
Line a large colander or sieve with a double layer of wet muslin. Mix the yoghurt, salt and garlic together and tip into the strainer. Tie the muslin ends together and place the strainer over a large bowl, to catch the whey. Refrigerate for 2 days.
Roll the resulting thickened yoghurt into small balls then coat in any of the suggested spices or herbs.
Alternatively, place in a jar, cover with olive oil and add one or more of the suggested flavourings. The marinated labna will keep, refrigerated, for several weeks. Plain uncoated labna can also be placed straight onto a platter, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with the coating spices.
Cut the aubergine into 1cm slices and place in a bowl. Mix together equal quantities of the vinegar and water and pour over enough to cover the aubergine. Add the shallot, garlic and salt. Submerge the aubergine by placing a plate on top. Leave to marinate for 2 hours. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.
Preheat a barbecue or grill plate. Brush the eggplant with olive oil, salt and pepper and cook until tender.
To serve: Place the labna and aubergine on a large platter along with black and green olives, whole vines of slow roasted tomatoes, stuffed vine leaves and a pile of warm flat breads or pide.