I LOVE yoghurt! But...to tell you the truth, I never use to like yoghurt. Thinking back I believe it wasn't until my varsity years that I started eating yoghurt, but it did took a while to convince my brain to like it (frequent circuit shortage problem I believe :p). Nevertheless, now I eat so much yoghurt that I do wonder whether such large quantity, is still good for me? Yoghurt has been advertised to be more beneficial (healthy-wise) than milk (which makes yoghurt) and is recommended for those who are lactose intolerant.
Yoghurt apparently is derived from Turkish "yoğurt", which translates into "to be curdled or coagulated; to thicken". It is not only nutritious and versatile. People from all corners of the world eat it or use it in their cuisine. The Indians use it in Lassi, Greeks use it in Tzatziki, many use it in salad dressings and it is also a healthy alternative condiment to deserts such as the Pavlova.
Having sampled a varieties of yoghurt, from make your own, supermarket brands to yak milk yoghurt in the high lands of Tibet. If you normally do not consume or enjoy goat milk based products then the yak milk yoghurt may not be your cup of tea. It is very pungent, but some people absolutely love it! I prefer plain yoghurt, since you can add fruits and other condiments to it and you are not stuck to a particular "flavour". More and more "up-market" or "fancy" yoghurt are produced these days and have been targeted as "desert". Now I have to say, this deviates the "healthy vision" that so many advertisers and nutritionists paints the picture of yoghurt for us. The desert like yoghurt products tend to be higher in fat content which is the idea of being a desert - creamy! So if you eat a delightful yoghurt like the one from Puhoi Valley "Divine Berries" like I just did, then I tend not to have another desert or consume lesser quantities.
One of my favourite recipes using yoghurt has to be the Tzatziki and Guacamole. Although I tend to use yoghurt with different viscosity with these two sauces. A thicker and creamer one for Tzatziki and a lighter and thinner one for Guacamole - but this is after all just personal preference. It is best to do some experiments yourself to find out what you prefer.
The Greek Tzatziki is very versatile, and I love making this in the summer. The cucumber brings a light and freshness to the dish as an appetiser, meat condiment or dressing for salads. I love serving it with kebabs, or any grilled red-meat, even patties in burgers. As an appetiser, this is commonly served with pita breads, I like my pita bread with drizzle of olive oil and garlic, before warming it up on the BBQ or in the oven. This one is based on the recipe from The Cook's Companion: The Complete Book of Ingredients and Recipes for the Australian Kitchen, a book that I adore and will write a review of once I have tested out more delightful dishes.
1 long cucumber, peeled and finely diced
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
2 cups plain (thick) yoghurt
2 tbsp dried mint or chopped up fresh mint
Extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Mix the cucumber and salt in a bowl, leave for 30 minutes.
2. Drain the cucumber and squeeze excess water out without completely crushing the cucumber.
3. Whisk the black pepper, garlic and yoghurt in another bowl. Add the cucumber and mint, stir in well.
4. Serve with drizzle of olive oil.
I find the creamier and thicker the yoghurt is, the tastier the tzatziki (i.e. Greek Yoghurt). Sometimes if I find it too heavy, I know it may not be conventional, but I lighten it with freshly squeezed lemon/lime juice and it becomes more like the Turkish Cacık (without dill). Alternatively you can use a more diluted yoghurt and make it more saucy. I do not find it absolutely necessary to drizzle the olive oil, I tend to leave a bottle out on the table and people can add if they need it. Some recipes suggest you should mix the olive oil in Step 3, once again, personal preference, I like it without. As for mint - I have to confess I am not a HUGE mint fan and tend to add lesser, once again, it's UP TO YOU!
Tip: It is vital to leave the cucumber and salt for a while to ensure your tzatziki is not too watery. The salt helps draw the water out of the cucumber through osmosis. Always taste and adjust before serving, since the size of the cucumber and thickness of the yoghurt varies.