Do you know that it’s possible to make gorgeous soft cheese by straining the liquid whey from natural yoghurt? This process takes a little time, but it’s so easy to do, and the creamy, tangy result is well worth the wait.

Strained yoghurts are popular throughout the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and India. One example is labneh, a Lebanese or Syrian yoghurt spread that is eaten on its own, or on bread, or formed into balls, flavoured with herbs and spices, and stored in olive oil.

What’s interesting about strained yoghurts is that the longer you leave them to drain, the thicker and ‘denser’ they become. Yoghurt drained overnight will thicken to the silky consistency of a dip such as hummus. Leave it another twelve hours, and you’ll have a texture similar to cream cheese. And if you let it drain even longer, the cheese will be firm enough to place in a mould, or form into little balls (see picture above).

Strained yoghurt has a tart, creamy, mild taste that combines so well with punchy flavours such as lemon, garlic, herbs and spices – the choice is yours.

What You’ll Need
  • 1 kg tub NutriDay Plain Low Fat yoghurt
  • A colander or large sieve
  • A piece of fairly fine fabric for draining the yoghurt. Any one of the following is suitable: cheesecloth, a laundered kitchen towel, a new ‘jiffy’ dish cloth or a clean pillowcase.
  • String
  • Seasonings for your cheese (see below).
How to Make Strained Yoghurt
Image 3 - draining Image 4 - hanging
  • Line a colander or sieve with a piece of fine cloth (see above).
  • Place the colander in your sink, or over a large bowl, which will catch the whey as it drains.
  • Pour the NutriDay yoghurt into the lined colander and set aside, without disturbing, for six hours.
  • Gently gather up the edges and corners of the cloth and tie them in a knot, or fasten them with kitchen string.
  • Now hang up the cloth ‘ball’ of yoghurt. You can suspend it from a tall tap if you have one, or from the handle of an overhead cupboard, or from a broomstick balanced between two chairs. Remember to place a bowl underneath to catch the drips!
  • Leave the yoghurt to drain, without touching or squeezing it, overnight.
  • If you would like a firmer cheese to place in a mould or form into balls, leave it for another 12-24 hours, or until it is the consistency you’re looking for.
  • Make sure that the yoghurt drains in a place free of insects.
  • If the weather is hot, and you are draining the cheese for more than 12-18 hours, hang the parcel in the fridge by tying the knot to one of the shelf racks.
Serves 6-8 as a snack or starter.

How to Flavour and Serve your Yoghurt Cheese
Image 5 - flavouring
  • Tip the strained yoghurt into a mixing bowl. Season it generously with salt, to taste.
  • Now add mix in any flavours you fancy, in a combination of your choice. Here are some ideas:
    • crushed fresh garlic
    • finely grated lemon zest
    • chopped fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, dill, oregano and chives
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • spices such as ground cumin, coriander, chillies and paprika
  • To serve as a dip or spread, tip the mixture into small bowl, or spread it in a thick layer on a plate. Alternatively, you can press it into a clingfilm-lined bowl to create a moulded cheese.
  • Top with a swirl of olive oil, and a garnish of herbs, spices or pepper.
  • Serve with crunchy snacks such as crackers, toast, vegetable sticks or nuts. Strained cheese is also delicious with olives, gherkins, capers and fresh pomegranate seeds.
How would YOU flavour your yoghurt cheese? And do you feel confident about trying this recipe? Leave a comment below, or post them on our Facebook wall.