Lilly Higgins: Toast the new year with a decadent bagel brunch

Smoked trout tastes great with this labneh, a Middle Eastern yogurt

Homemade labneh with smoked trout and pickled shallots

Homemade labneh with smoked trout and pickled shallots

 

New Year’s Day brunch is always one of my favourite meals. These are not run- of-the-mill ways to start the day. These are decadent breakfasts. Toasted brioche with ricotta and homemade jam is always delicious, and a huge cafetière of freshly ground coffee. Lately I’ve discovered that Soma coffee here in Cork roasts and grinds its own beans every Wednesday morning. The resulting coffee is exquisite and the perfect way to kick off the new year.

I really love smoked Irish trout. Salmon production is beginning to get a bad reputation, so I only eat this fish when I know exactly how it was reared and caught. Irish trout is plentiful, and there is some really delicious smoked trout available from Goatsbridge, Duncannon Smokehouse and the Burren Smokehouse.

It tastes great with this home-made labneh, a Middle Eastern strained yogurt that has a consistency similar to soft goat’s cheese or cream cheese. It’s incredibly easy to make and can be eaten like a cheese. It’s fantastic with pitta bread as part of a mezze spread or for dipping vegetables into. You can stuff it into dates or use it in cheesecakes. It’s incredibly versatile and has all of the gut-friendly probiotics of yogurt. The longer you drain the labneh, the thicker it will become. You can discard the watery whey that remains or use it in smoothies, to make bread or add to the water when cooking grains.

Best of all you can add anything to labneh. Add a little honey and it’s the perfect frosting for a carrot cake. Add some finely chopped herbs and a little garlic and it’s ideal for spreading on crackers. This sumac and black-pepper version has a sour lemon kick that tastes fantastic with the smoked trout. Serve with a glass of dry Champagne to toast the new year.

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Home-made labneh with smoked trout and pickled shallots

Serves 6

3 shallots, very finely sliced into rings
2tsp sugar
100ml white wine vinegar
Pinch sea salt
1 slice of cooked or raw beetroot (optional)
480g Greek yogurt
Zest of ½ lemon
1tsp freshly ground black pepper
½tsp sumac
Pinch sea salt
300g smoked Irish trout
6 bagels
1 avocado, sliced

Start the day before. Shake the sugar, salt and vinegar together in a jam jar until dissolved. Add the thinly sliced shallots and a slice of beetroot if you want a vivid pink colour. Add a pinch of turmeric for bright yellow shallots or leave them natural. Add a clove or two if you want a bit of festive spice. Place the lid on and leave in the fridge until you need them.

Line a large sieve with muslin or cheesecloth. Place over a large bowl and spoon the yogurt into the sieve. Cover with a dinner plate and set aside overnight. You can leave it on the kitchen counter for a tangier taste or place it in the fridge. By morning the yogurt left in the sieve will be thick like cream cheese and the excess water will have drained out. Discard the water.

Fold the sumac, lemon zest, salt and pepper into the labneh. Spoon into a bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a pinch of sumac. This can all be done the day before.

Toast the bagels at the last minute and wrap in a tea towel to keep them warm, place the smoked trout, sliced avocado and a handful of salad leaves on a big platter in the middle of the table. Serve with the labneh, pickled shallots and warm toasted bagels.

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