Saffron Roast Tomatoes & Labneh with Persian Herb Chilau


This is my kinda food right here. But then, s’pose all the recipes we share with you are my kinda food!

Two recipes in one, folks. Nice. Perfect for each other and entertaining the eat kind way.  

Saffron Roast Tomatoes & Labneh      


These decadent tomatoes are best served warm or at room temperature, which is handy cuz you can focus on the chilau while the tomatoes are cooling. Just don’t forget the rice needs to soak for 2hrs before you start.

We’re using shop bought labneh because we live in East London and it’s easy to get ya hands on such things. It’s really easy to make at home if yee canny get ya hands on some, you just need cheesecloth/muslin, yoghurt and to start a day earlier. Deets at the end.

Oh and San Marzano plum tomatoes are the best plum tomatoes there are. They grow in the volcanic soils at the base of Mount Vesuvius don’t cha know.

1hr | serves 8 as a side | easy times


24 plum tomatoes

2 tsp harissa

2 good pinches saffron

1 tbsp caster sugar

200g labneh

1 clove garlic, crushed to a paste

1/2 lemon, juice

2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted

9 tbsp extra virgin olive oil


Heat the oven to 160°C / gas 3. Halve the tomatoes and arrange in a single layer in a roasting tray/s.

Mix 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil together with the harissa and one pinch of saffron and pour over the top. Turn the tomatoes with your hands to make sure they are well coated.

Sprinkle with sugar and season. Roast for about 45 minutes cut-side up, or until they are caramelised and slightly shrunken. Leave to cool a little.

Get the labneh in a bowl and mix it with the garlic and a pinch of salt. Carefully move the tomatoes to a serving plate, dotting nuggets of labneh amongst them as you go. Pour over some of the cooking juices from the roasting tray.

Scatter the almonds over the plate, then heat the saffron with the lemon juice in a small pan, remove from the heat, add 5 tbsp extra-virgin oil and mix.

Spoon over the dish and serve warm or at room temperature.


Persian Herb Chilau 


Rice cooked up Iranian style for a delicious crusty layer on the bottom. It’s real important to soak the rice, real important, guys.

45mins + 2hr soaking | serves 8 as a side | bit of effort 


425g basmati rice

50g butter , plus optional extra to serve

75ml sunflower oil

100g mixed dill, coriander, flat-leaf parsley and mint, chopped

1/2 lemon


Rinse the rice in a sieve until the water runs clear, then cover it with water in a bowl and leave it to soak for two hours. Wash and rinse it again.

Bring a saucepan of water up to the boil and tip the rice in. Cook the rice for about 5 minutes, until it’s just beginning to soften on the outside. Drain and rinse in lukewarm water.

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy saucepan until foaming then add half the rice in a layer covering the base. Cover this with half the herbs, then the rest of the rice and finish with the rest of the herbs, seasoning as you go.

Turn the heat down and make three steam holes in the rice with the handle of a wooden spoon. Wrap the lid of the pan in a tea towel and put the covered lid onto the saucepan (this prevents condensation falling back into the rice). Cook for 20-25 mins with the heat on very low.

Empty the rice into a bowl, dislodging the crispy bits at the bottom. Break these bits up and stir through the rest. You can serve with extra melted butter and a squeeze of lemon if you wish. Persians put saffron in the butter before pouring it over. So nerr.



Both recipes featured in Olive magazine from January 2007. They are by Diana Henry, from her enchanting book Crazy Water Pickled Lemons.

Moorish and Persian folks got there first though, obvs!

Making Labneh…

To make 500g labneh you need 1kg full fat natural yoghurt and a goodly pinch of salt. Place a large sieve over a big bowl and line it with 2 or 3 layers of cheesecloth. In another bowl add the salt to the yoghurt and mix until smooth. Pour into the prepped sieve, gather the edges of the cloth together, twist and tie tightly with string. Let it rest in the sieve, cover the lot with cling film so nothing falls in and it doesn’t pick up odours, and shove the whole shebang in the fridge.

The longer you leave it to strain the thicker the labneh. 8-10 hours give you a soft-strain, 24-48 hours gets you a thicker cream cheese like labneh and 48-72 hours produces a much thicker yoghurt cheese you can roll into balls and cover in herbs.

Straining natural yoghurt for only a couple of hours gives you Greek-style yoghurt. Pretty darn cool huh! Found at mattersofthebelly.

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