FOOD / Recipe: Turning yoghurt into soup

THE winning recipe in the yoghurt and creams category this week is an Egyptian spinach, rice and yoghurt soup called labaneya. Doreen Hood of Leicester discovered it in Vegetarian Dishes of the Middle East by Airo der Haroutunian.

Mrs Hood recommends buying a 'fairly acidy yoghurt, not a bland style'. Health food shops tend to stock the liveliest tasting yoghurts, though more bland live ones will become acidic with age. If stored correctly, good yoghurts remain edible well past the use-by dates. Older yoghurts are good in this sort of dish, if a bit tart for the morning cereal.

Labaneya

Serves 4

Ingredients: 1lb (450g) fresh spinach or 1/2 lb (225g) frozen

3tbs vegetable oil

1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 spring onions, green and white, finely chopped

4oz (110g) long-grain rice, washed and drained

2 pints water

1tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp paprika

3/4 pint (425ml) full cream

yoghurt

1 clove garlic, minced

Preparation: Either wash fresh spinach and tear into salad-sized leaves or defrost frozen spinach. Heat the oil in a large pan and sweat onion over low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and spring onions. Saute for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add rice, water, seasonings. Stir well, bring to the boil, then simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Mix the yoghurt and garlic together. Remove the soup from heat, stir in the yoghurt and serve hot.

An alternative would be to mix in half the yoghurt, and use the remainder to spoon finishing swirls in each soup bowl. A tiny finishing pinch of paprika would be pretty.

This next item came scribbled on the back of a postcard. 'A Catholic priest am I, with little time for excess. I found a recipe for yoghurt made with basic ingredients in Perugia, Italy. A plain yoghurt culture (even a commercial one), a pint of semi-skimmed milk placed in a saucepan of water over the pilot light of an antique gas stove for 16 hours. End product - a plain yoghurt. Flavour with your fruit, especially apple.'

Alas, this gentleman has so little time for excess, he gave neither his name nor address. Otherwise, like Mrs Hood, he would have been eligible for a bottle of buttery- tasting 1990 Givry Champs Pourot Domaine Ragot, a chardonnay from the Cotes Chalonnaise, which we purchase from Reid Wines of Hallatrow, near Bristol.

Next week, the last of our yoghurt and cream series. New recipes are sought for the following category: Italian cooking in the British kitchen. Send your recipes, stating the source, to Emily Green, Recipe, Weekend Features, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB. Those whose recipes we print will receive a bottle of 1990 Cepparello from Isole e Olena.

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