I don’t know what category of foods this dish falls under – is it a dip? A salad of sorts? A side? None and all of the above? Who’s to say, but we ate it piled high on homemade garlic bread, so I’m leaning towards it being a dip.
Making labneh at home is nothing more arduous or complicated than tying up yogurt in a piece of muslin (or in a colander set over a bowl) and letting the whey drip out of it; the resulting ‘cheese’ is labneh. This dish needs planning ahead for the reason that the yogurt needs time to drain and thicken. Unless of course you live in a place that has access to store-bought labneh. If you’re really short on time however, use really thick Greek-style yogurt instead. It won’t have the same velvety richness as labneh but it’ll still work.
The onions really make this dish for me. The chilli butter too, but I’ll get to that in just a minute. First get on with the onions: add them to a pan with a good knob of butter and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Sweat them down over a medium heat until lightly golden around the edges and sweet and caramelized. Cool slightly, then stir them through the labneh along with cooked peas and ribbons of romaine. The peas and lettuce add bulk and substance to the dip. I’m always looking to bulk up with veggies so when I saw Jordon Ezra King—whose dish this is adapted from—add them in, I was all in from the get go.
The chilli butter that gets drizzled over the top is my spin on it, and borrows from the flavours of that other Middle Eastern sensation – Turkish eggs. If you like garlicky yogurt smothered with a buttery chilli sauce, this right here evokes those same flavours.
LABNEH WITH CARAMELIZED ONIONS, LETTUCE AND PEAS
- 400 grams yogurt
- 3 onions, thinly sliced
- 2 cups romaine, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup peas, fresh or frozen
- 30 grams butter
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- A small handful of fresh parsley (optional)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 15 grams butter
- 1 ½ teaspoons chilli powder
- Add the yogurt to a muslin cloth or to a colander set over a bowl. Hang for at least an hour, or up to 4 hours. This can be done up to a day in advance and the labneh can be kept refrigerated.
- Heat the butter and olive oil in a pot and add the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Cook over a medium heat until the onions brown around the edges and caramelize. If they start to brown too quickly, turn the heat down and cover and cook for a few mins.
- Cook the peas in boiling salted water for a few mins until tender. Drain and set aside.
- Make the chilli butter: heat the oil and butter in a small pan and add the garlic cloves and chilli powder. Swirl the pan above the flame for no more than 20 seconds. Set aside.
- Add the labneh to a bowl and stir in the minced garlic, caramelized onions, lettuce and peas. Taste and adjust seasoning. Top with chopped parsley and pour over the chilli butter. Best eaten as a dip with garlic bread.