In the blazing sun, in the cold, under a blanket of clouds, rain and fog, the fellahin work the land unconditionally and need to feed their bodies to continue their arduous work. Sometimes, a fellah will go to the nearest hummus joint and bring back warm hummus and freshly-fried falafel. On other days, they will open a bag or a small cooler they brought from home with freshly-baked bread, olives, onions, and labneh.
In wintertime, during the rainy season, labneh is traditionally mixed with mukra or wild mustard greens. Different from the mustard greens sold for salads today, mukra can still be found in December in markets like the one in Nazareth. If you can’t find it, store-bought cultivated mustard greens can stand in here.
Both the preparation method of the labneh and the homemade laffa are modern simplified versions of traditional, more complex recipes.
For the labneh:
1½ liter/qt cow or sheep milk yogurt, 4% fat
3 tablespoons salt
For the mukra:
1 bunch of mukra greens (about 20), stems included
4 tablespoons coarse salt
For the laffa:
1 kg (2.2lb) all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
½ cup oil
½ cup water
2 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons sugar
- Make the labneh: Combine the yogurt and salt, transfer to a cheesecloth, gather its four corners and tie at the top. Hang over the kitchen sink to drain for about 12 hours.
- Finely chop the mukra leaves and stems, mix with coarse salt and massage with your hands. Set aside for 4 hours. Strain, wash under running water until the salinity decreases and pat dry (if using cultivated mustard leaves – which tend to be softer, add 1 tablespoon of salt and set aside for only 30 minutes before washing).
- Mix the labneh with the mukra greens, spread the desired amount in a shallow bowl and generously drizzle souri olive oil on top.
- Make the laffa: Mix all the ingredients in the bowl of a stand mixer to a soft, elastic dough. Cover with a towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 8-10 equal balls. Heat a large skillet over high heat and lightly grease with oil.
- Flour your work surface generously. Roll a dough ball as thinly as possible. Transfer to the sizzling skillet and fry for about 2 minutes, until bubbles form on the surface. Flip and fry for 30 seconds. Transfer to a tray and repeat with the remaining dough balls, until all the laffas are ready.
- Serve warm with the prepared labneh