Tzatziki is a very common dish; one of the easiest to make, but sadly bought tzatziki can be absolutely horrible – too watery, too minty and too tasteless. Cucumber and yoghurt salad (what an awkward translation into English!) is common from Greece (tzatziki) through Turkey (cacik) to the Middle East (laban by khiyar) and India (raita). It can be used as a dip or as an accompanying sauce for roast lamb or souvlaki, and I love it (and so does Tom – so today’s recipe is for him really). My recipe has been honed over time. I have never liked watery tzatziki and so learned to drain the cucumber for at least an hour before adding just before serving. The most common herbs used are mint or dill (more common in Greece), but using herbs isn’t compulsory. I prefer it without. The much lamented Hellenic Restaurant in Finchley Road made the best tzatziki (IMHO, of course) – it was thick and full of cucumber, and I have tried to copy their version as much as I can. Also, and I realise I could possibly be thrown out of the family for saying this, I think Lebanese yoghurt is nicer than Greek…. There is a creaminess to laban which Fage just doesn’t seem to have. For those of you still in London, New Istanbul on Finchley Road sells wonderful Lebanese yoghurt; if you can’t get it, don’t even consider using low fat yoghurt – it isn’t worth the effort, just eat less!
Tzatziki – Ingredients
- One large pot of Greek or Lebanese yoghurt
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Salt and pepper
- One cucumber, peeled and grated into a sieve an hour before serving.
- 3 tablespoons fresh mint or fresh dill, washed and chopped
Put the olive oil, lemon juice and garlic into a bowl and whisk until it starts to emulsify. Gradually add the yoghurt until it is all mixed in. Add half a teaspoon of salt and mix.
Pat the cucumber with kitchen roll.
Just before you are going to serve the tzatziki, add the cucumber and herbs, if using, and mix in well. Taste and season. I tend not to add more salt, but I do like lots of pepper.
Put into serving bowl and drizzle some olive oil over the top.
I cannot stress enough the versatility of tzatziki – don’t think of it as just a dip – use it with grilled meats, cold meats, white fish, calamari, prawns – the list is almost endless. For me, it’s a substitute for mayonnaise and it really doesn’t take long to make. The most important thing is to make sure that you have grated the cucumber at least an hour before you want to serve it.