Homemade yoghurt and labne

Yoghurt:

Makes about 2 1/2 cups

The only equipment you need for making your own yoghurt is a large, clean glass preserving jar or jam jar with a lid. The jar must be made of tempered glass that can withstand heat. A sugar thermometer is handy, but not essential. The trickiest thing in making yoghurt is finding a warm place for it to grow - not a hot place, just a nice, snugly warm kind of spot, about 20-25C. In this regard, a thermos flask rather than a glass jar is great. I tend to wrap my glass jar in an old quilt, and place it on a stool next to the fridge engine.

1 litre full cream, non -homogenized milk 1-tablespoon yoghurt - it must say ' live cultures' on the label

Wash heatproof glass jar and lid, rinse with very hot water and drain to dry.

Put the milk in a saucepan and bring to just below the boil (82C on a sugar thermometer) stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and cool the milk to 43C, or until it's cool enough for you to put your finger in it and keep it there. Stir the milk a couple of times to prevent the skin from forming.

Spoon the yoghurt into the clean jar and pour in a little of the warmer milk (don't be tempted to add a little extra yoghurt, thinking more is better; the bacteria need lots of room to play and grow) Stir to combine well, then add the remaining milk and replace the lid. Leave the jar to sit for at least 8 hours. Allow to cool before refrigerating. Keeps for approx 6 days.

Labne - Yoghurt or Kefir Cheese

GLUTEN FREE MAKES APPROX 400 ML LABNE

Drained for 4 hours or more, plain yoghurt or your strained kefir milk can be transformed into a light and tangy "cheese'" or thick "cream" called labne. This will often be a much more digestible cheese as many of the proteins and sugars have been digested by the bacteria. Yoghurts that do not contain milk solids are preferable and will take longer to firm up. The whey that drips off can be stored in a clean glass jar and will keep for approx 4 months.

600 ml full cream, non - homogenized yoghurt or kefir

Line a sieve with four layers of muslin - don't worry if the corners hang over the edge of the sieve. Set the sieve over a bowl to catch the whey.

Spoon the yoghurt or kefir into the muslin lined sieve and leave in the refrigerator for 4 - 24 hours. Time will depend upon the initial kefir or yoghurt, so just keep an eye on it. If you want a firmer cheese, once a good deal of the whey has dripped off, fold the muslin corners over the yoghurt and weigh it down with something heavy before refrigerating it. (I use a small plate on the muslin, and a tin of tomatoes on the plate.)

Uses:

Savoury Labne:

Sprinkle with chopped herbs, salt and olive oil, or shape firm labne into small balls and roll in chopped herbs. Place in a clean glass jar, cover with olive oil and store in the fridge for up to 1 month. The oil makes a great dressing when the labne is used.

Sweet Labne :

Add ground cinnamon, natural vanilla extract, honey or a drizzle of maple syrup to taste and mix until smooth.