An Introduction to Arabic Cheesemaking
The Middle East has a rich and varied tradition of working with dairy products, with roots reaching back as far as 5000 BC in Mesopotamia. In this fun, hands-on workshop, Rahaf Alakbani and Siham Ibraheem will be sharing some of their favourite family cheese recipes.
This class will cover the basics of 3 kinds of cheese popular in Syria: yogurt-based Labneh, ricotta-like Kareshi, and a fresh curd cheese known as Jibneh Arabieh
Labneh لبنة is an extremely simple cheese made by salting and straining yogurt until it has the texture of cream cheese. It can 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 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 semi-hard white cheese popular in Egypt and the Arabian Gulf area, jibneh being the generic 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 mozzarella to a firm haloumi. Jibni can be served on its own, with pickles, olives and vegetables; sometimes it is served with watermelon. 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.
There will some cheeses to taste in class, and whatever cheese is made in the workshop will be divvied up for participants to take home.
Rahaf Alakbani is from from Sweida city in Southern Syria. A talented cook and musician, she will be sharing some of the cheese recipes she used to make with her mother when she was young. Rahaf arrived in Toronto in early 2016 and is one of the founding members of Newcomer Kitchen. She also helped establish the Nai Syrian Children’s Choir, and has worked for the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture.
Siham Ibraheem is from Homs City in Central Syria, where she was a teacher at primary school for nearly 30 years. Siham and her husband also ran a small food business producing artisanal jarred foodstuffs like makdoos (preserved stuffed eggplants), pickles, and cured labneh.
Every Monday, The Depanneur invites TO’s best culinary talents to lead fun, hands-on workshops.
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