Aaaahhhhh - this picture makes me pine for the Greek islands. There's nowhere I'd rather be. Well, sadly I'm not there and if you're reading this you're probably not either. After all, why would waste your time on such things when you could be merrily wiggling your pinkies in the Aegean?
I first discovered the marvelous thing known as Tzatziki many many years ago. In fact it was the first truly Greek dish I ever ate. Having fled the horrors of a dreadful insurance job in London I found myself back-packing around the Cyclades. On the way out to the islands - on board the legendary 'Georgios Express' - I got chatting with a feisty bunch of Aussie girls. One was of Greek descent and had the nonchalant air of someone who knew her kalamatas from her keftedes. To her evident disgust I told her I'd never eaten a scrap of anything Greek in my life. With a sigh she said, 'Right then. Remember these and you won't go far wrong - Tzatziki, Souvlaki and Greek Salad.' She even scribbled them down in the back of my Berlitz Pocket Guide to Greece.
I departed the ferry at Ios for no other reason than someone had once told me it was a good place to go. It wasn't and best avoided but that's another story. After nearly 24 hours of non-stop travelling I was starving. So hungry in fact I couldn't think straight. The nearest Taverna beckoned. I ordered a beer and looked at the menu but didn't really need to. 'Wha' you want?' the waiter snarled. Smugly I replied, 'Tzatziki, Souvlaki and a Greek Salad.' The whole lot came with a pile of fresh bread as is the Greek way. It was one of the best meals of my life and I wolfed it down.
Ok - enough reminiscing. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. By the way, you'll have to set aside nearly 10 minutes out of your busy day for this one.
I got my youngest Katie to help. She's much much prettier than me anyway. In all seriousness though, Tzatziki is probably the easiest food you'll ever make and a great way of getting the kids involved. Once learned - never forgotten. And it's great fun too - just look that happy face for goodness sake!
To feed 4 you will require:
If there are 2 of you half the amounts, if 8 double, if 16 quadruple etc. etc. etc.
And now on to the method: (warning - this is incredibly tricky)
Pour your yoghurt into a largish bowl.
Here's the Cucumber bit. Personally I prefer to 'julienne' my cucumber but that's just me. Basically it means cutting it into slices then slicing again until you're left with strips which should be roughly 1/4 cm in diameter. Then you simply slice the other way until left with a pile of tiny chunks. If you can't be bothered with that sort of carry-on grate the cucumber using the coarse side of the grater. It's a lot quicker, carries less risk of injury & more or less achieves the same end result.
Ok - place shredded or diced cucumber on a couple of sheets of kitchen roll. Plonk another couple on top and let some of the moisture soak in. While that's happening machete your lemon in half, stick a fork in one of the halves (into the open fruity end) and twist a little lemon juice into the yoghurt (be careful here - not too much - a single twist will do). Then add about 3 pinches of salt, a generous pinch of ground black pepper and your 3 teaspoons of red or white wine vinegar. By the way, I mean the type of vinegar you'd use for salad dressing - not bunging on your chips. Remove the diced/grated cucumber from it's snuggly bed of kitchen roll and plonk into the mix. Give the whole lot a good old stir. Or follow my lead and get your offspring to do it while you have another glass of something refreshing.
Right then - this is the best bit - battering the living daylights out of your garlic. Remember to peel the little beggars & if you have a mortar & pestle all the better. Bung your peeled cloves in the bowl, add a little pinch of salt (I think it makes the bashing easier) and smash away until you're left with a thick garlic paste. Alternatively use a garlic press or chop 'em up as finely as you can (see handy yet violent tip on last post). When that's done whack your garlic (which should be nicely pungent at this point) into the yoghurty/cucumbery mix.
Then chop up your mint - bung that in as well - give it all another mix. Have a taste. Add a little more of whatever's needed. Cover it & stick the whole lot in the fridge for at least 2 hours. It can be eaten straight away & will taste lovely but honestly letting all the flavours infuse for a couple of hours - or in true Greek style overnight - is well worth it!
Sprinkle a little olive oil over the top and garnish with couple of fresh mint leaves (if you have them). Serve with loads of crusty bread as a Starter or as part of a Main Course. Makes a terrific dip - goes brilliantly with breadsticks & crudités. Marvelous with all sorts of meats - for example keftedes (Greek meatballs), souvlaki or gyros. Great simply to have alongside your salad too. If this doesn't instantly whisk you back to the best holiday of your life out on the Greek Islands then nothing will.
My kids love Tzatziki with bread for lunch. It keeps really well in the fridge for a few days too. The whole lot - using the yoghurt shown (bought in Lidl - where else) costs well under 2 Euros to make. What's not to love?
Wine: A nice crisp white does the job with this. Suggest a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio in the absence of Retsina (if you can get your mitts on that so much the better).
Tune in next time for Drew's Dinners - Back to Basics. Yassou!!!
Love food, from the Sunday fry-up to Octopus mezze. If it tastes good I'll eat it. And there's so much great wine and beer out there to wash it all down with. Having said that you can't beat a pot of good strong tea with the Sunday fry.