Cacik or Tzatziki

Introduction

There are variations on this recipe from the Mediterranean to Indonesia, but it is essentially a wonderfully cool combination of cucumber and yoghurt.

The difference between cacik and tzatziki is in the yoghurt. Greeks favour a strained sheep's milk yoghurt, which like Camembert or Champagne, should have its own AOC, as there is nothing quite like it. In Turkey, where you will find cacik served throughout the meal, a natural runny yoghurt is used, which can be very refreshing. The Turks also produce an iced yoghurt and cucumber soup of the same name.

Tips

It's difficult to source sheep's milk yoghurt in many countries and I am not a fan of over-priced 'greek-style' yoghurts. I buy goat's milk yoghurt and sometimes make my own with micro-filtered cow's milk, both have great flavour. I then strain it for 4-6 hours in a plastic coffee filter set in a bowl.

The end result is excellent. If you leave it straining overnight, you will end up with a super thick yoghurt called Laban in the Middle East. It is often served at breakfast rolled in herbs and ground spices.

The leftover whey can be used to make lassi-type drinks and can be used in place of water in curries.

Ingredients (serves four)

  • 1 cucumber or ½ if it's the long English variety
  • 250ml\8 fl oz\1 cup strained yoghurt for Tzatziki or plain yoghurt for Cacik
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon of cider or white\red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • Small handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • Salt

Tools of the Trade

  • Serrated grapefruit spoon (optional)
  • Serving bowl

Method

Roughly chop the clove of garlic, then crush it with the blade of the knife. Add a little sea salt and continue to crush until you end up with a paste.

Mix the garlic paste, vinegar, olive oil, mint and yoghurt together in the serving bowl.

Peel the cucumber and cut it in half along its length. Using a spoon, ideally a serrated one, hollow out each half to remove the seeds, then dry the flesh thoroughly with paper towel.

Grate or better still finely chop the cucumber flesh and add it to the other ingredients in the serving bowl.

If necessary adjust the seasoning with more salt or olive oil.

Refrigerate for an hour prior to serving, to allow the flavours to meld.

Suggestion

Substitute the cucumber for a bunch or two of watercress leaves and the mint for dill for a surprising Turkish alternative. It's the only dish containing watercress that I have seen children devour.