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Making Labneh: Part I

If you're capable of mixing salt and yogurt in a bowl, then guess're capable of making cheese!  It can be that easy to create fresh cheese at home, no rennet or humidity-controlled caves required.  All you really need is a little patience.  

This magically easy-to-make food we're speaking of is labneh, a cheese typically found in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Israel made simply by straining the whey from yogurt.  This classic and versatile mezze is usually eaten with soft flatbreads, in sandwiches (its texture is similar to that of cream cheese), or as a finger food if rolled into balls and marinated in olive oil, as we'll do with the recipe below!  

The version we've used comes from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi of London's Ottolenghi and NOPI restaurants.  The team originally hail from Israel and Palestine, and have blended the culinary traditions of their respective homelands with ingredients of the world to create a genre all their own.  In their first cookbook, Ottolenghi, they offer a traditional labneh recipe that's used unconcentionally in many of their dishes (think 'Roasted Rhubarb with Sweet Labneh').  You can get creative too; roll the balls in spices like sumac or za'atar (two of our favourites - they're both available in the delicatessen), use labneh in salads, with grilled vegetables and baked eggs, or even on pizza.  If you can find yourself some yogurt, salt, cheesecloth, and 48 hours, the sky's the limit.

Here's Ottolenghi's recipe, and we'll check back again in a few days when ours is (literally) ready to roll!


1 litre natural goat's milk yogurt (or full-fat cow's milk yogurt)

3/4 teaspoon salt

200-300ml olive oil

pinch dried mint          

1. Line a large bowl with cheesecloth (folded in half to make stronger).  In another bowl, mix the yogurt and salt together well.  Transfer the yogurt to the cheesecloth, pick up the edges of the cloth and tie them together to form a strong bundle.  Hang this over your sink or a large bowl and leave for 48 hours.*  By this time the yogurt will have lost most of its liquid and is ready to use as a spread.

2. To go further, leave it hanging for a day longer.  Remove the labneh from the cloth and place in a sealed container in the fridge.  Once it is thoroughly chilled, preferably after 24 hours, roll the cheese into balls, somewhere between the size of an olive and a walnut.  

3.  Take a sterilized jar** about 600ml in capacity.  Pour some of the olive oil inside and gently lay the balls in the oil.  Add some more oil and continue with the balls until all the cheese is inside and immersed in the oil.  Seal the jar and keep until needed.  

4. Before serving, scatter the mint and pepper on a flat plate and roll the labneh balls in it.  

*We'd suggest hanging it in the fridge to keep it colder, but it's up to you.

**To sterilize your jar, fill it up with boiling water, leave it for a minute, then empty it.  Allow it to dry naturally without wiping so it remains sterilized.   


Making Labneh: Part II coming soon!



Staff Recipes: Gluten-Free Tahitian Vanilla Bean Cupcakes with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

The Dirty Apron wouldn't be what it is without Michelle Britton, our Assistant Manager.  She knows this place inside out and backwards, answering approximately 1000 questions a day from customers and staff, and always with a smile.  She's a wealth of information, an all-around lovely person, and lucky for us, an innovative baker!  A gluten intolerance has forced her to experiment when it comes to baked goods, and she's hit some serious home runs.  Take for example these cupcakes, which according to Michelle, "turned out really well. The boys didn't even know they were gluten free or had rice milk in them ;) HA!!"  To top off her sneakily-modified treats, she chose a Maple Cream Cheese Frosting from the Ottoloenghi cookbook.

Tahitian Vanilla Cupcakes 

2 cups All Purpose Gluten Free Flour Blend (White Rice, Brown Rice and Tapioca Starch) 
1 cup organic cane sugar 
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon xanthan gum 

1 cup vanilla soy, rice, coconut, almond milk or plain regular milk  (I used Vanilla Rice Milk) 
1 organic free-range egg, beaten
3 tablespoons Grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon Tahitian vanilla extract 
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice 

Preheat oven to 350F. 

In a mixing bowl, whisk all dry ingredients together. Then add the wet ingredients and beat with a hand mixer until the cake batter is smooth.

Using an ice cream scoop, plop the batter into the twelve liners. Smooth out the tops with wet fingers. 

Bake in the center of a preheated oven until firm and dome shaped. For me this took about 15-18 minutes at sea level but they may take up to 20 to 22 minutes, depending upon your particular oven and altitude. 

Cool the pan on a wire rack briefly, then gently pop out the cupcakes and continue cooling on a rack (this avoids steaming the bottoms). 

Makes 12 large cupcakes.


Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar 
100 ml maple syrup 
1 cup cream cheese 

Beat butter till light and fluffy then beat in the cream cheese until just mixed in.  Beat in maple syrup and brown sugar.  

Ice cupcakes and if desired, sprinkle with coarse maple sugar!