Do you get that? When you have a craving, and it lasts for days until you actually satisfy it? I sometimes do. And this time it was chicken. I had been daydreaming of a roast bird. Skin all salty and crisp, white succulent flesh underneath, the kitchen filled with its savoury smell. This had been my food fantasy for at least a week. I actually asked Marco to pick up a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store the other night, but they were out. Noooo!
But then yesterday my dream materialized. And in a better way than having a poor tortured cheap chicken out of a thermal bag. I've had the last few days off, and wanted to use my last day of blissfully doing nothing to give in to my craving. I went shopping in the morning and a big, organic piece of beautiful (albeit dead) poultry came home with me. I knew exactly what I wanted to happen to it. Nothing fussy. Something easy, but satisfying to eat. Just roasting it with a lemon, some garlic and an onion nestled around it at the bottom of the pan.
I had a 3/4 full pot of Labneh in the fridge, which is a thick Lebanese yoghurt that I bought when trawling the Middle Eastern shops on the Edgware Road last Friday. I remembered reading about this yoghurt eaten as a dip, with lots of garlic and fresh herbs, sprinkled with a mix of dried herbs and sesame seeds. So I also bought some pitta bread, stocked up on parsley and dill, picked mint from a pot in my garden and then went to work, making Labneh with Herbs and Za'atar as an accompaniment for my chicken. You'll find the recipe below the photo.
LABNEH WITH HERBS AND ZA'ATAR (serves 4)
First, make the za'atar. This recipe will make more than you need and will fill a small jar, but the spice mix keeps well for a few weeks. You can use it to up the flavour of steak, tomato soup, popcorn, french fries, eggs, or hummus, for example.
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried marjoram
1 tbsp sumac
1 tsp rock salt
In a small pan over a low to medium heat, toast the sesame seeds until golden, about 5 minutes. Make sure to shake them around or stir them, as they will burn easily. Once toasted, remove from pan on to a small plate or bowl to cool.
Add all the herbs and salt to a spice grinder. Add 2 teaspoons of the sesame seeds and grind everything to a powder. Add the rest of the sesame, stir through and fill into a glass jar or similar container.
And now for the yoghurt dip:
LABNEH & HERB DIP
250g labneh (or other thick yoghurt, i.e. Greek)
2 cloves garlic, minced
handful fresh mint leaves
handful fresh flat leaf parsley (leaves only)
handful fresh dill (frondy bits only)
2 spring onions
Spoon the labneh into a bowl. Add the garlic. Finely chop all the herbs and the spring onions and add to the yoghurt and garlic. Mix well and season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and liberally sprinkle with za'atar. Serve with pitta bread or vegetables, or whatever else takes your fancy. Maybe chicken?