I always yap on about my love for Middle Eastern food culture, so I think I found my magazine soulmates at The Carton, a beautiful bi-annual magazine dedicated to food culture and the Middle East. They're based out in Beirut in Lebanon, with contributors are placed all over the world. I've been busy working with them over the last few months on their Decus in labore issue (No. 14) to create a series of 8 original Middle Eastern loaf recipes, so snap up a copy here and try your hand at baking them. For now, though, here's a sneak preview of what you can expect...
250g clear honey, and extra to glaze
225g unsalted butter, cubed
100g dark muscovado sugar
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
300g self-raising flour, sifted
1 tsp saffron threads
100g fresh labneh (optional)
5 fresh figs, quartered
1. Preheat the oven to 160ºC and grease a 2lb loaf tin. Grease and line the base and sides with baking parchment.
2. Place the butter, honey, sugar and ½ tsp saffron threads into a medium saucepan and melt over a low heat. When the mixture becomes liquid, bring to a boil for 1 minute. Take off the heat and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
3. Once cooled, beat the eggs into the melted honey mixture with a wooden spoon.
4. Using a freestanding electric mixer or electric whisk, combine the flour and remaining threads of saffron with the liquid mixture at a low speed. Beat for 2-3 minutes at a medium speed to form a smooth and runny batter.
5. Pour the batter into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 50 minutes – 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean.
6. Remove from the oven and leave the loaf to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, top with the labneh if you are using it, along with the figs, and a drizzle of honey.
7. If using labneh, this loaf is best served the same day it is made. Otherwise, it will keep well in an airtight container for up to 3 days.