I was home for a lovely wedding last weekend which took place at Clandeboye Lodge in Bangor. Just before we packed up the car the following day, I popped into the farm shop beside the hotel which backs onto the creamery and bought a pot of the famous Clandeboye yogurt. As well as stocking Greek & natural yogurts of various sorts, they also sell raw milk which although still fairly hard to find around the country is now legal to produce and wonderfully full of flavour – try it in homemade ricotta or puddings to enjoy the old-fashioned, lively flavour of unpasteurized dairy that our great-grandparents would have had every day.
Hearing mooing nearby, I popped my head into one of the adjacent sheds and spotted a few of their beautiful dairy cows.
Later, back home in Dublin and at a something of loose end after the weekend of festivities, I decided to use my Greek yogurt to make labneh, a soft, tangy but creamy spread with an almost whipped texture that’s made by slowly pressing yogurt through muslin so that the whey is removed, leaving just gorgeously fluffy curds.
Wandering around the garden in the full flush of its July growth, it occurred to me that adding herbs to the labneh before setting it to drain would allow the flavours of the herbs to develop more than just stirring them in at the end would achieve, so I stirred in chopped coriander, mint, chives and fennel along with some crushed garlic at the mixing stage. Next time, I’ll chop the herbs more finely so that I don’t have to remove them at the end, but all told it was a very successful experiment; as were the dukkah & rye crackers that I quickly invented to accompany the labneh and some of the stunning purple peas from the garden for my lunch.
Wonderfully creamy yet light & clean tasting, homemade labneh makes a delicious snack served with dukkah crackers and some crisp baby veg like sugar snap peas, radishes or carrot sticks.
500g whole milk Greek yogurt
Half a teaspoon of salt
1 small clove of garlic, peeled & diced
Handful of mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl then transfer to a muslin-lined sieve, wrap tightly and place a weight on top. Leave to drain at room temperature for at least 40 minutes, and longer if you can to allow the flavours to develop nicely. If you’re in a hurry, you can press down on the weight manually to squeeze the whey out quicker, but it won’t taste as rich & lactic if you do. Discard (or drink) the whey and serve the labneh with the dukkah crackers below and some crunchy baby veg like peas or radishes.
I decided to ramp up the herby, exotic flavours further still by serving the labneh with some homemade dukkah crackers, which I made up the recipe for on the fly but am very pleased with. Packed with thyme & spices, these rye crackers have a great snap and a fantastic full flavour thanks to the sesame seeds, which are gently toasted for extra yumminess.
Makes 12 large crackers
125g rye flour
75 sesame seeds
Handful of fresh thyme leaves, stems discarded
1 tablespoon onion seed
Half a tablespoon each of coriander seed & fennel seed (or dill seed)
Half a teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
25g butter, cut into small pieces
4 tablespoons of hot water
Preheat your oven to 180ºc. Toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan with the spices & thyme. Once the sesame seeds are lightly golden, pound the lot for a minute using the end of a rolling pin – you’re looking to break up the spices & some of the sesame seeds without completely pulverizing the mixture. Transfer to a large bowl and add the rye flour, salt and olive oil. Rub in the butter, lifting the mix with your finger tips as you do so that it has an even, crumbly texture like ground almonds. Add the hot water gradually, mixing with your hands all the while. Bring the dough together into a ball in the bowl and knead lightly for a minute or two. If it’s sticky, coat it lightly with some more rye flour. Place the ball onto your largest tin (ungreased) and use a rolling pin or the heel of your hand to flatten it out as thinly and evenly as possible. It should fill the total surface area of the tray and be even in depth at all points. If you don’t have a very big tray, split the dough between two medium sized trays and follow the above steps for rolling out. Bake for 25 minutes or so, or until golden and crisp, then use a very sharp heavy knife to cut the crackers into long rectangles. Serve with labneh or cream cheese and any other desired accompaniments.