Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Middle Eastern twist on the Cheese Ball

This is my take on the cheese ball (the famous creamy soft appetizer served with some kind of crispy chip/bread at parties)
Here I've added my middle eastern touch, and served them with homemade lavash (it's really quite simple to make, you will be surprised!)

We'll start with the cheese ball(s)
I used soft savoury cheeses, no cream cheese here.

I start with Lebneh, it is a middle eastern soft creamy "cheese" made from yogurt, basically it's a strained yogurt, it's like the greek yogurt and it's the base used in dips or just served as a breakfast food drizzled with olive oil (you've probably seen it on my blog before!)

I made my lebneh because it's super easy, check out the basic instructions here  on my flickr.  Salt is added during the process so it's already seasoned.
Even after it's done sometimes lebneh can release some water as it sits so before making the cheese ball I strain some again by placing the desired amount into a bowl lined with a clean sheet of paper towel (a sturdy paper towel brand is better so that it doesn't fall apart)  This should just make it extra firm. 

The second cheese I used is goat cheese and the third variety is sheep's feta, both these were whisked together until creamy (feta is a bit crumbly so it requires a bit of whisking into the goat cheese to yield a smooth consistency)

I'd say the ratio is 50 % lebneh to 30%  goat cheese and 2% feta. 

For flavourings you can add whatever you like into the cheese or leave it plain!  I grated a small clove of garlic and zested a lemon (just a bit!)   No need to add salt and all these cheeses have enough salt. 

Blend, mixing well (you can set it in the fridge overnight!) 

Now I roll out 3  pieces of cling wrap and 3 big dollops of this creamy cheese mixture in the centre of each piece, divide in thirds so they end up equal.
Bringing the sides of the cling wrap together and twisting at the base, I tried to shape the cheese into a ball as best as possible then set them all on a flat plate and into the freezer for 20 minutes or so (this will make it easier to work with)

For the first cheese ball I rolled it in toasted pine nuts (toast the day before if you'll be too busy the day of your party!)  Toast in a dry pan on medium low until golden and move them around so they don't burn. 
Set aside to cool.

When I was ready to roll I  removed the balls and simply rolled the top and sides because this cheese is  pretty soft so I upwrapped the top and held the bottom with the cling wrap and just dunked top facing down into the pine nuts and then covered the sides by rolling gently. 
I set it gently on a plate and pulled out the cling wrap from under. 

The same technique worked for the chives (chopped finely) and the last one is covered in a light dusting of coloured pepper corns that were crushed in the mortar and pestle. Using coloured peppercorns is better that straight black ones because the green/pink peppercorns are more mild (I don't even think they're actual peppercorns but more like in the berry family or something)   I love black pepper but this one might be too intense for some people so you could switch this for anything else that you prefer. 


The lavash is of 3 or 4 varieties but the dough is all the same.  It begins with the awesome recipe from my favourite bread book, Peter Reinhart's "The Bread Baker's Apprentice"  (I travelled around the world clutching this book and preferred to leave behind clothing just so that I'd be able to carry this book back with me! It is that fantastic!)

Check out the recipe here in case you do not have the book, but I highly recommend getting it.

I made the dough, proofed it overnight (yeah yeah, a little longer that I should have but anyway.. ) then divided it into 3 equal sized balls.

I rolled out and baked one at a time.  Rolling out each piece really thin, drizzled and wiped it with a bit of water and sprinkled the first with toasted sesame seeds, the second I did half with toasted cumin seeds and sea salt and the other half with toasted corriander seeds and sea salt. 
The last one I grated a bit of aged parm cheese (the real stuff) 

Bake, break 'em up into bite sized pieces and start dipping!!

Enjoy your party!


Sue/the view from great island said...

These look so festive, and really yummy---I love how you photographed them through all the stages of the party!

Amatullah said...

Thank you Sue! :) I hope you enjoy these recipes and happy holidays to your and your family.