Welsh organic dairy farmer Elfyn Davies took 12 years to develop his Sanclêr yoghurt cheese, which he believes is the first product of its kind on the UK market

A recipe in a book bought from a second-hand shop shaped the future of Elfyn Davies when he tried it out and discovered it was delicious.

Yoghurt cheese is eaten in the Middle East but until recently the spreadable savoury dairy product was unavailable in the UK.

It took Elfyn Davies and his wife Rhian 12 years and two attempts to turn a successful recipe into a commercially available product, not least because there was no machinery designed for its manufacture.

But the dairy farmer's 23 years in engineering provided the knowhow to design the equipment that has made production possible.

At present the couple produce about 1,200 150g pots of yoghurt cheese per week at premises funded with the help of Food Centre Wales, a European Commission-funded development agency.

The 600 litres of milk that is used comes from their organic herd of 70 cows on the 180-acre farm at St Clears in south west Wales that the couple bought in 1994. The pots of yoghurt cheese sell through small local shops and independent supermarkets as well as health food shops, delis and farm shops for £2.30 per 150g pot.

In countries such as Bulgaria, yoghurt cheese is left to hang in muslin bags, but Davies has found a way to replicate the product in conditions that satisfy hygiene regulations in the UK. He makes it from only natural ingredients, adding organic British herbs such as basil and garlic along with a probiotic culture.

The yoghurt cheese contains no salt or rennet, but has a shelf life of at least four weeks.

Customers can eat it as a spread or as a dip on toast in the morning or add it to soup, create a spaghetti sauce or put it on jacket potatoes.

"It has been going quite well, and we have been very encouraged by the fact that customers have been coming back for repeat orders," says Davies, who would welcome approaches from larger retailers.

"There are so many ways that yoghurt cheese can be used because it is such a good base product."

It has already begun to attract serious interest from the restaurant trade. "Several chefs have come back to us with new ideas for the product. Although this started as a hobby when there was a glut of organic milk, we really want the business to prove a big success. We feel we are offering something unique."