Shanklish is a Lebanese and Syrian blue cheese made from sheep or cow's milk. Making Shanklish is a very complex process, which requires the separation of butter from yogurt. The skimmed yogurt called Shenineh is curdled to form Arisheh, a delicate crumbly white cheese, yogurt whey. The cheese is then rolled into tennis size balls and dried in the sun for a week. It is then placed in airtight jars and left to mature in the dark. As they age, the cheese develops mold layer on the surface. Later, the Shanklish balls are rinsed to remove off the mold and coated in dried za'atar or thyme. To make spicy Shanklish, spices such as aniseed and chili is mixed in before the cheese is rolled into balls. Once matured, it is coated in dried thyme, and sometimes chili.
Shanklish varies greatly in its texture and flavor. Fresh cheeses have a soft texture and mild flavor; those dried and aged for a longer period become progressively harder and can acquire an extremely pungent odor and flavor. Spicy Shanklish are often covered in chili, especially in Syria, thus appear red. Shanklish from the Syrian coastal plain around Tartus and the adjoining northern Lebanese region of Akkar are considered particularly delectable; these tend to be hard, with a clean strong flavor and near-white color.
Shanklish is a Middle Eastern cheese with a similar texture to feta, which is why feta can be used as a substitute. Shanklish is common Mezze dish often covered with finely chopped tomato, onion, and olive oil, and often accompanied by Arak (alcoholic drink with aniseed flavor). It is also eaten mashed with eggs, pita bread with cucumbers, mint, and olive oil
Here is simpler way to make it using ready made Feta cheese
- 250g feta
- 1 tsp dried za'atar
- ½ tsp Aleppo pepper
- ½ tsp salt
- ½-1 onion, chopped
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- Extra virgin olive oil and Lebanese bread, to serve
Serves 4 as part of a Mezze spread
Place cheese on a serving dish then spread as you crumble feta in small pieces. Add onion covering the cheese and then add tomatoes covering the onion. Sprinkle Za'atar, Aleppo pepper and salt all over the top. Drizzle over olive oil and serve with Lebanese bread.
Note: You will need to use a dry, crumbly feta for this recipe.