An essential dip on our table and one of the most versatile preparations in our kitchen, this is simple, seasonal cooking at its best.
Our green labaneh is inspired by a traditional method used in Palestine and Jordan during the bountiful spring when an indigenous herb Hweirneh (حويرنة) is foraged in the wild. Hweirneh, a bitter cousin in the mustard family, is an acquired taste for some and a treasured spring delicacy for my family and many others.
The leaves are not really ever eaten raw. The trick is salting them overnight and then pressing out all their water. They’re then usually mixed with labaneh or yoghurt (or a mix of both) and served with excessive amounts of olive oil to round out some of their sharpness.
At the restaurant we’ve adapted this technique using many different kinds of bitter greens over the seasons. Any bitter, spicy greens work here, from mustard leaves to rocket, the result is generally quite consistent. Cucumber leaves are also a good option albeit yielding a different result, more like a play on cucumber yoghurt without all the pulp.
Our favorites may be radish greens, which we’ve used here. Their sharpness is reminiscent of hweirneh, they have a wider seasonal window and you get the added bonus of making use of these delicious leaves which almost always get discarded. When buying radishes (or any other vegetable) with leaves attached, make sure to chop the greens off immediately as they will make the bulbs wilt quicker. Try using the greens as soon as possible for the best results.
If you're craving green labaneh but not feeling up to the task, that's okay. Take it easy and order it online from our grocery.
This recipe only uses four ingredients so it is crucial to use the best quality ones you can find. Not all labaneh is created equal and this will show. Use a better olive oil and swap any iodized table salt for a more mineral rich rock salt if possible. These choices will dramatically impact the taste of your mix.
Focus more on technique and consider the quantities listed as suggestions, depending on your own taste and the ingredients used feel free to adjust the ratios as you see fit. Increase the labaneh to mellow out the bitterness or use less to intensify it. Olive oil helps balance out the flavor as well but you don’t want to add too much into the mix. You can always drizzle more on top when serving.
We’ve also included two extra steps which would traditionally be missed. We mix the pressed greens with olive oil in a blender before gently folding into fluffy labaneh that has been whipped using a stand mixer. This unlocks the color and flavor of the greens and gives the dip a light and silky texture. You can skip these steps for a simpler but still delicious result.
Green labaneh is one of the most versatile preparations in our kitchen. We’ve used it in countless ways, from simply serving with bread, slathered on toast with eggs, as a base to a salad or dressing, a dip with fried or roasted vegetables and even in the place of plain yoghurt in fatteh.
Make a big batch of this, it will keep for at least a week in the fridge depending on the freshness of your ingredients, and the taste develops nicely with age. It also makes for a thoughtful gift to family and friends.
¼ KG of fresh soft labaneh
1 bunch of radish greens
1 tablespoon of fine salt
¼ cup of olive oil
Trim the radish leaves removing any fibrous stems while keeping as many leaves as possible. Pick and discard any yellowing leaves. Soak the leaves in cold water with a pinch of salt for a few minutes to release any dirt. Drain and wash them well before drying them thoroughly using a salad spinner or towel.
Roughly roll the leaves up on a cutting board and holding them together tightly in one hand slice them finely using a sharp knife. In a medium bowl mix them well with the remaining salt. Move the salted greens into a sieve and set it above the bowl, cover with a towel or cling wrap. Set it aside in the fridge for 4 hours or preferably overnight.
The green should have released some water into the bowl. Using your hands press out any remaining water out of the greens.
Place the greens into a blender and discard the leftover water. Pulse while drizzling in the olive oil in a steady stream. With a more rickety blender like mine at home, this will not be as impressive and will result in a coarse mix which works just as well. With a better blender like in our restaurant, you can emulsify the greens with the olive oil into a beautiful, fluffy green paste. You can also do this with a mortar and pestle for a more sensual experience.
Add the labaneh to the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Mix at medium high speed for 15-20 minutes. Observe for the first few minutes, depending on the consistency of your labaneh you may need to add a tablespoon or two of milk so you can incorporate more air into the mix (If you’re using homemade labaneh, reserve some of the strained water to use here instead, see note below). You can also do this with a hand mixer or even a whisk if you have it in you.
Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the greens into the fluffy labaneh working your way around the sides of the bowl. Be careful not to deflate the labaneh.
Serve with an optional extra drizzle of olive oil, some fennel fronds if you have them and maybe a light sprinkle of crunchy flaky salt. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for a week or up to two weeks depending on the freshness of your ingredients.
Note: you can easily make your own labaneh by mixing good quality sheep or cow’s yoghurt with a generous pinch of salt and leaving it in a strainer overnight in the fridge. Reserve some of the water if making this recipe.