Other spellings: Shanklish, shanklish, shanghlish, shinklish, sorke, or sürke
Shankleesh which is part of the mezza, is a semi-hard cheese with a crumbly texture. How is it made?
Basically, it is a combination of cow’s milk and yoghurt (some cheese-makers also use goat’s milk). The milk is boiled then left to cool slightly before adding to it the yoghurt: each litre/ 1¾ pints of milk requires about 180 ml/ 6 fl oz of natural yoghurt. The mixture is then put on a pot stand, thus allowing the air to circulate evenly and it is left to cool down completely before transferring it into the fridge and keeping it there overnight for twelve hours. The following day, the milk-yoghurt mixture is put on a low heat, stirring it constantly until it reaches boiling point, then it is simmered for a couple of minutes before taking it off the heat. Once it has cooled down, it is strained through a cheese cloth, the remaining curd mixture is then seasoned with salt, pepper and chilli powder. It is then divided into portions which in turn will be shaped into balls approximately the size of a tennis ball. These are then stored in a semi-humid place until they are dry from the outside. Next, each ball is wrapped in greaseproof paper, then placed in a large jar or container and transferred into a cool place: the fridge for instance is considered to be a suitable place. About two weeks later, they turn brown with the formation of a mould on the outside layer: an indication that the cheese has matured. The mould is then peeled off with a knife and each ball is rolled in dried thyme or oregano, or a mixture of both with chilli flakes added for the extra spicy ones. When this is completed, the shankleesh cheese is ready for use.
The golden rule is always go by recommended brand names. Shops or supermarkets tend to sell mostly the ordinary spicy Shankleesh.
Eating and storing Shankleesh:
Shankleesh does not require any seasoning as it is full of flavours. It keeps well in a glass jar in the fridge. The longer it is kept, the harder it becomes and the flavour develops. It is also perfect for home freezing.
How the Lebanese eat Shankleesh
I am not writing a recipe as such, but here are some suggestions:
- Shankleesh has a great affinity for onions and extra virgin olive oil. Finely chop a medium onion, preferably red, then take half of a Shankleesh ball and crumble it on top, drizzle generously with some extra virgin olive oil, mix and serve with Lebanese bread, also fresh crusty baguette goes well with it.
- You could top up this basic recipe with more ingredients such as a finely chopped tasty tomato with a couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley.
- To add a perfect finish to scrambled eggs: crumble about 1-2 tbsp over two eggs, just a couple of minutes before they finishing cooking and enjoy with bread and a sliced tomato on the side.