how to make labna, & whey (with which you can ferment your vegies)

Labna is amazing stuff. For those who don't know, labna are creamy balls of drained yoghurt that when tossed through a roast beetroot and walnut salad, or spread on a good piece of sourdough, provide an other-worldly experience. Seriously, everyone should have labna in their cooking repertoire. It's a neat party trick.

My homemade labna spread on a slice of authentic sourdough bread, topped with home grown tomatoes and basil.

I got this recipe from my (one of many) foodie idols Matthew Evans, who features it in his cookbook The Real Food Companion. It's dead easy. And the beautiful thing about it is the 'waste product' from the draining process, the 'whey', can be used as a starter culture to ferment vegetables. If you haven't been fermenting your vegies, it is well worth learning how to do so, because the health benefits are invaluable.

So, the recipe:

Homemade labna

1kg natural yoghurt (I lazied out of making my own, but bought some good quality yoghurt from my local farmers' market. Just make sure whichever you use is good quality, biodynamic and definitely sugar-free. It's also better to use yoghurt that hasn't already been drained - so probably best not to use greek yoghurt)
a pinch of salt
extra virgin olive oil
fresh or dried herbs of your liking (I used dried thyme, you can use bay leaves, oregano, peppercorns, chilli, juniper berries)
two cloves of garlic (optional)
a piece of muslin cloth
a large bowl
a sieve
a sterilised air-tight jar

Line a sieve with a piece of paper towel (folded over a few times), and sit the sieve over a large bowl.

Pour the yoghurt and salt into a separate bowl and whisk until combined. Then pour this mixture into the sieve. Make sure there is enough space between the bottom of the bowl and the sieve so that the sieve isn't sitting in any liquid that will drain out of the yoghurt. Cover with a plate and place in the fridge for 2-3 days.

When ready, the yoghurt will be thick enough to form into little balls. Take 1-2 teaspoons of the yoghurt and roll into bite-sized balls. Carefully place the balls into the jar, add your selected herbs and garlic if you like, and fill the jar with olive oil.

You could eat them straight away, but I let mine marinate in the herbs and garlic for a day before I tucked in. They can be stored in the oil like that, in the fridge, for up to 1 month.


Back in the bowl, you're left with a yellowish liquid called whey. Whey is wonderful stuff. It's a rich source of vitamins, minerals and proteins, and acts as a probiotic. It's partly why yoghurt is such a healthful food.

You can use it to ferment vegetables. Why would you? Because incorporating a little fermented veg in your diet injects it with extra beneficial bacteria that do wonders for your gut health, which in turn does wonders for your digestion, fat metabolism and general vitality. Ancient cultures throughout the world have been incorporating fermented veg in their diets for centuries - think Korean kimchi, Japanese pickled daikon, ze Germans with their sauerkraut. I could go on.

Sally Fallon covers a heap of fermented vegetable recipes in her cookbook plus some, Nourishing Traditions. Recently, blogger and television presenter Sarah Wilson fermented some roots, which you can read about here. Do try it. You can freeze the whey that is produced from this labna recipe until you're ready to use it. Which is a great thing. Zero waste.



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