• Side
  • Makes 20 balls
  • 20 minutes
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Perfect for making in advance to serve as part of a larger spread, these rich, tangy labneh balls are a deliciously creamy addition to a mezze platter. Spread the on bread, dip them in oil and play around with the spices they’re rolled in.

This recipe is from Falastin: A Cookbook by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley (Ebury Press, £27). Photography by Jenny Zarins.

First published in 2020





Line a deep bowl with a piece of cheesecloth or muslin (a clean J-cloth is also fine, as an alternative) and set aside
In a separate bowl, mix the yoghurt(s) with 1 teaspoon of salt. Pour into the cloth-lined bowl, then bring the edges of the cloth together and wrap tightly to form a bundle. Tie firmly with a piece of string. Hang the bundle over a bowl (or attached to the handle of a tall jug so that the bundle can hang free – and drip – inside the jug) and leave in the fridge for 24–36 hours, until much of the liquid is lost and the yoghurt is thick and fairly dry
Another method is to put the bundle into a sieve placed over a bowl, with the weight of a plate, for example, or a couple of tins, sitting on top: this weight speeds up the draining process
With lightly oiled hands, spoon a small amount – about 20g – of the labneh into the palm of one hand. Roll it around to shape it into a 3cm-wide ball, and transfer it to a tray lined with a damp (but clean) J-cloth. Continue with the remaining labneh until all the balls are rolled. Transfer to the fridge for a couple of hours (or overnight) to firm up
Half-fill a jar (large enough to fit all the rolled labneh: about 10cm wide and 12cm high) or airtight container with olive oil and drop in the balls. Top with more oil, if necessary – you want the balls to be completely covered with oil – and add the thyme or oregano. Seal the jar and store in the fridge. When ready to coat – you can do this up to a day before serving – remove the jar from the fridge and bring to room temperature, so that the oil becomes unset. Lift the balls out of the oil and roll them in the chilli flakes or za’atar: an easy way to do this is to spread your chosen coating on a plate, place a few balls at a time on top and shake the plate: the balls will be coated in seconds
If not eating at once, return them to the fridge on a plate (but not in the oil). Bring back to room temperature before serving: you don’t want them to be fridge-cold. The balls will keep for up to 2 months in the fridge
First published in 2020

Sami and Tara are the co-authors of Falastin.

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