This light, spring recipe is perfect as the evenings begin to warm up and whilst the labneh requires a little forward planning, the creamy texture and tangy flavour contrast perfectly with the crunchy asparagus and nutty pumpkin seeds. Urfa Chilli Paste adds a depth of smoky heat to balance out the fresh labneh.
1kg Greek-style yoghurt
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
5 tbsp pumpkin seeds
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tsp Urfa Chilli Paste (use less if you’d prefer it a milder heat)
250g radishes (around 1 large bunch)
Approx. 16 large spears asparagus, around 800g
salt and pepper for seasoning
Mix the yoghurt and salt in a bowl and stir thoroughly. Lay a large piece of clean muslin or jay cloth onto a sieve or small bowl and scoop the yoghurt into it, then bring up the sides of the cloth and tie at the top. Suspend the yoghurt so it hangs in the air and place a bowl underneath to catch the liquid that will drip out. Hang either in or out of the fridge for a minimum of 8 but up to 24 hours. Then remove the cloth, place the labneh in a container, and keep in the fridge.
Place a medium frying or saucepan on a medium heat and when hot, add the coriander and fennel seeds and toast lightly for around 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Remove from the pan.
Now add the pumpkin seeds to the pan along with 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil and season with salt. Toast the seeds until crisp, nutty and beginning to pop, around 3-4 minutes, then remove from the pan.
Add 4 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil to the pan and then add the garlic. Gently fry the garlic until light golden and sticky, then add the Urfa Chilli Paste. Stir through then turn the heat off. Add back in the seeds along with a further 6 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil or more to cover. Infuse on the lowest heat setting for 10 mins, turning it off if it begins to bubble too vigorously, as you don’t want to burn the garlic. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Place a large pan of salted water on a high heat ready to blanch the asparagus. Snap the woody part of the asparagus stalks off then thinly slice a little of each remaining stalk on an angle. Place these slices in a bowl and season with salt and a very small amount of extra virgin olive oil and mix to coat. Trim the stalks from the radishes and cut into a mix of slices and wedges. Place in a bowl and cover with very cold, salted water for 5 minutes to crisp up, then drain.
When ready to serve, cook the asparagus in the salted water for between 2-5 minutes, depending on size, but so it still has a little bite in the middle, then drain.
Divide the labneh between plates, spreading a layer with plenty of troughs and swoops. Season the asparagus with salt and pepper then lay over the top, and dress with plenty of the garlic and Urfa Chilli toasted oil, making sure you scoop lots of seeds from the bottom of the pan. Finally scatter over the radish and raw asparagus slices.