Yogurt adds a cool note to summer eating, as a herby highlight to chicken, or a lighter raspberry fool 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 prefer the wake-up-call sharpness of sheeps milk yoghurt, often with a glowing puree of alphonso mango and a lightly sweetened compote of blueberries or blackcurrants. Used 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 making the dessert less rich. Homemade labneh, made with thick yogurt left to strain overnight through a muslin, has been in my fridge all summer long. I use it as it comes, or with basil and mint threaded through and maybe a little black pepper. Cold for the fridge 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 variety can be used for this.
You will need a large square of cheesecloth.
Makes about 500g
sea salt 1 tsp
strained yogurt 500g
Stir the salt into the strained yogurt. Line a sieve with a piece of cheesecloth (a new J cloth will do at a push), then suspend it over a bowl. Scrape the yogurt into the lined sieve, 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 Middle East, especially when they are allowed to stand after cooking and can be eaten just warm and when their flavours have time to marry. Rather than the usual tomato and onion stuffing, earlier this week I made a refreshing 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
sesame seeds 2 tbsp
dill a handful
rose petals (optional)
Set the oven at 200C/gas mark 6. Peel the cucumber, slice in half lengthways then, using a teaspoon, remove and discard the seedy core. Coarsely grate the cucumber, using the largest matchstick disc on the food processor.
Divide the cucumber into two piles, 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. Put the other half in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Halve the aubergines lengthways, then score them, almost through to the skin, in a lattice fashion. This encourages the olive oil to penetrate more thoroughly. Place the aubergines snugly and cut side up in a roasting tin, trickle over the olive oil, add the whole head of garlic, unpeeled, to the tin, then bake for about 45 minutes until the aubergines flesh is soft and completely tender.
Remove the aubergines from the oven and scrape their flesh into a bowl, returning each empty skin 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 filling and serve.
Grilled chicken, herb labneh
Read more: www.theguardian.com