Sunday, Nov 26th, 2:15-4:45 PM | Canoe Landing CRC, Kitchen A (3rd fl) | 45 Fort York Blvd
The Middle East has a rich and varied tradition of cheese making reaching back as far as 5000 BC in Mesopotamia. In this fun, hands-on workshop, Rahaf Alakbani will be sharing some of her favourite family cheese recipes. This class will cover the basics of preparing 3 kinds of cheese popular in Syria: yogurt-based Labneh, ricotta-like Kareshi, and a fresh curd cheese known as Jibneh Arabieh. The class will explore recipe ideas, as well a taste of Syrian culture, history and music.
Labneh لبنة is an extremely simple cheese made by salting and straining yogurt until it has the texture of cream cheese. It can be served as spread or dip, or when a bit firmer, rolled in balls and cured in olive oil to extend its shelf life. The cheese balls can also be rolled in various spices like nigella seed, Aleppo pepper, sesame seeds, za’atar, or mint for a very attractive presentation. There will be some premade labneh to roll, decorate and taste, and a demonstration of how to make it from store-bought yogurt.
Kareshi قريشة is a traditional soft cheese, much like ricotta, made by heating milk and then curdling it with vinegar or lemon juice. The resulting fine curds are delicate, white and prized for their light, creamy texture and sweet milk flavour. In Syria it is sometimes served simply with honey, or in sweets like qatayef or halawi bi jibin, or salted as part of a breakfast or meze.
Jibneh Arabieh (or Jibni) جبنة عربية أو جبن is a tender white cheese popular in Egypt and the Arabian Gulf area (jibneh being the generic Arabic word for ‘cheese’). It can be made from goat’s or sheep’s milk, but nowadays cow’s milk is generally preferred for its more delicate flavour. Soft curds are made with the use of rennet tablets and then drained and pressed. Depending on salt and moisture levels, it can range in texture from a soft farmer’s cheese, to a fresh, melty mozzarella, to a firm, fry-able haloumi. Jibnehs can be served on their own, with pickles, olives and vegetables as a meze; it is also common to find it pan-fried with a sunny side up egg for breakfast, or as an ingredient in sweet pastries such as knafeh.
Participants will share a light afternoon snack including the cheeses they have prepared.
Rahaf Al Akabani hails from Sweida in southwestern Syria. She arrived in Canada in 2016 with her husband Esmaeel Aboufakher, and together they were instrumental in helping co-found Newcomer Kitchen, Nai Syrian Children’s Choir and Haneen Women’s Choir as part of their ongoing work to support their community. Rahaf continues to nurture her twin loves of Syrian cooking and culture in workshops, choirs and concerts across the GTA, sharing songs and recipes passed down from her mother and grandmother. Rahaf and Esmaeel have recently completed their Masters in Arts and Humanities at York while raising their two young children.