Several years ago, my beautiful friend, Saima, told me about her family’s excitement over her homemade yogurt cheese . I exclaimed to Saima, who just happens to be my trusted skincare specialist, “YOU made cheese from yogurt?” Saima responded in her typical matter-of-fact way by saying, “Yes, who else?”
Saima explained that she used a cheesecloth to strain a full fat, plain yogurt until completely dry. After this first step, Saima told me that the once creamy yogurt looks solid. The solid yogurt is formed into small balls that are then floated in olive oil. Saima described how the delicious cheese balls along with their olive oil can be spread on warm bread. I must admit, this simple recipe seemed unlikely to me, and so, I forgot all about it…..UNTIL I was invited by a woman’s coop to a hands-on, yogurt cheese making class in Amman, Jordan.
These women were sincere in their welcome of twenty visitors into their kitchen. They were also intent on giving us all a take-home lesson in the art of making cheese from yogurt. I am grateful to my traveling companion for taking the next few photos and allowing me to enjoy the experience. We started with thoroughly dried, chilled yogurt. It should look like this…
The dried cheese is broken into quarter sized pieces and rolled into balls. Take care that the pieces are the correct proportion and uniform; work quickly so the heat of your hands does not soften the cheese.
This is an excellent kitchen activity for youngsters learning about food preparation….and for older kids like myself who enjoy being foodies.
Place these gems in a jar.
Generously pour on the olive oil and call it labaneh mudahbarah.
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The savory circles take an olive oil bath….at this point, garlic, red pepper flakes, caraway seeds, ……or crushed black pepper….. or dill …….or rosemary can be added….I was thinking perhaps a bay leaf! BUT…plain is just fine.
Don’t count on this deliciousness staying in a container for long because the real fun has to begin. Warm the bread; put out fruit jam; sprinkle za’atar on a saucer; grab some olives and preserved lemons; please brew the tea hot and strong; plate the cheese and its beautiful oil. No knives or forks, please. Now!!! Eat! Drink! Laugh!
This was my last evening in Jordan, and I could not have asked for a better way to end the first leg of my junket…finding proof, yet again, that people are more alike than they are different…
Falling in love every day with people and the places where they live. See you soon in Cairo.