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Labneh Balls Marinated in Oil, Chilli and Herbs with Manuosh Za'atar

Food

8th April, 2014
Mario Karam of Mario's Kitchen
Tuesday 8th April 2014

 

Mario Karam of Mario's Kitchen joins us again today with another traditional Lebanese dish that reminds him of his youth.  He assures us these melt-in-your-mouth labneh balls are much easier to make than they may first appear - as long as you start the day before, this dish is fail safe! - Lucy

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Labneh Balls Marinated in Oil, Chilli and Herbs with Manuosh Za'atar (spiced flatbread) by Mario Karam of Mario's Kitchen.  Styling - Stefanie Ingram, photo - Luisa Brimble.

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Labneh Balls Marinated in Oil, Chilli and Herbs with Manuosh Za'atar (spiced flatbread) by Mario Karam of Mario's Kitchen.  Styling - Stefanie Ingram, photo - Luisa Brimble.

Don’t be afraid to try this recipe, because although there are a few stages to the process, it’s actually really simple, and totally worth the effort. The labneh balls will last in the fridge for up to two weeks, so they’ll be on hand for unexpected guests, and the bread is baked in only ten minutes.

If you want comfort food with a kick, this is unbeatable. The combination of the rich labneh balls with the crunchy texture of the manoush za’atar is perfect for breakfast with a hot cup of tea, or even for an afternoon snack.

Good labneh balls melt in your mouth and have a creamy, thick, slightly sharp flavour, reminiscent of a soft cheese, but much lighter and healthier. I like to marinate them in thyme, then roll them in chili and za’atar just before serving because it gives an added complexity to the flavour.

Manoush za’atar is a classic aromatic Lebanese flatbread. It smells incredible when it’s home baked, is super-crispy, and has a nutty, spicy flavour.

I decided to include this recipe because it reminds me of all the times I spent with my brother, Jamil. This was a favourite for us, and we’ve spent many a happy morning devouring our mum’s labneh balls, or kicking back on a lazy afternoon watching movies with a big warm plate of manoush za’atar.

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Labneh ingredients.  Styling - Stefanie Ingram, photo - Luisa Brimble.

For the labneh balls (makes 16)

Ingredients

4 x cups of plain full fat yoghurt
1 x teaspoon of sea salt
Good quality olive oil
3 x sprigs of wild thyme
Chili flakes
Za’atar spice mix

You will need a piece of cheesecloth or muslin for this recipe, available from good cooking supply shops, or haberdashery / fabric stores.

Method

Mix the yoghurt and sea-salt together, then scoop all the yoghurt into a cheesecloth. Wrap it tightly and give it a good squeeze, wringing out as much of the whey as possible. Then place the wrapped yoghurt in a colander and sit it over a bowl. Put the bowl in the fridge overnight to drain any excess water. It should set to a consistency of cream cheese.

In 24 hours, open the wrapped yoghurt and spoon a small amount into the palm of your hand, then roll it around and shape it into a ball. It takes a bit of practice to get the right amount and shape, and you need a pretty light touch because the mixture is quite delicate, but it’s easy when you get the hang of it.

Place all the balls into a jar and completely cover them with olive oil, then place the sprigs of wild thyme on top to marinate. Cover and store in the fridge.

Just before you serve them, roll half the balls in the chilli, and the other in the za’atar for that extra zing! Serve them together on a plate, and the contrast in colour looks great.

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Mario rolling the labneh balls.  Styling - Stefanie Ingram, photo - Luisa Brimble.

For the manoush za’atar (herb bread)

Ingredients

4 x cups of plain flour
2 x teaspoons of sea salt
1/2 cup of lukewarm water
1 x teaspoon of yeast
1 x tablespoon of sugar
1 x tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 cup of za’atar spice mix
1/2 cup of olive oil

Method

Mix the flour, sea salt, yeast, sugar, water and 1 tablespoon of oil until combined and knead by hand for 10 minutes until the dough is soft.

Place the dough in a bowl and lightly oil it. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and place in a warm spot to rise for about an hour.

Heat the oven to the highest temperature.

In a small bowl, combine the za’atar and the oil, stirring well. Set aside.

Lightly flour the surface, and roll out the dough into a round, flat slab. Make sure it’s nice and thin – about 3-4 mm thick.

Spread 3 teaspoons of the za’atar mixture on the dough using the back of the spoon or your fingertips to get an even, thick spread.

Place on the baking stone in the oven and bake for 7-10 minutes.

Told you it was easy!

HUGE THANKS Mario and Liz of Mario's Kitchen for sharing their family recipes with us this month, and to Luisa Brimble and Stefanie Ingram for the gorgeous shots!  For more foodie inspiration from Mario and a peek at some of the incredible events he caters, be sure to check out the Mario's Kitchen Instagram account!

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Labneh Balls Marinated in Oil, Chilli and Herbs with Manuosh Za'atar (spiced flatbread) by Mario Karam of Mario's Kitchen.  Styling - Stefanie Ingram, photo - Luisa Brimble.

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