Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Rushina's recipes - Essential Ingredient – Yoghurt

Today’s post was inspired by my friend the Knife musing aloud for light summer recipes on Facebook.
Whether you call it thayir or dahi or doi or mosiru or any other regional name, wether it makes its presence felt as a side dish, an ingredient or impromptu dessert with a bit of sugar stirred in, there is no doubt that Curd or yoghurt is an indispensible part of Indian cuisine. Nowhere in the world is yoghurt as indispensible at the table as it is in India.

Yoghurt is the one omnipresent ingredient that is part of any Indian kitchen from Kashmir to Kanyakumari. As a side dish in its natural form it holds its own on the thali across india, but it also balances the spicy flavours of Biryanis and Curries in the form of raitas, is drunk as a cooling drink in the summeras chaas in Gujarat, ginger-spiked majjige in Karnataka or thick, sweetened lassi in Punjab.

As an ingredient it makes itself useful in a myriad ways from tenderizing mutton for succulent dishes such as the Kashmiri yakhni or enveloping slices of fish in the delicate Bengali doi machch, it also, brings piquancy to the palate in the form of the slightly sour-mostly sweet shrikhand in Gujarat and Maharashtra, or the vegetable rich Avial in Kerela and signifies the end of a fabulous traditional Tamil meal as thayir saadam or curd rice.

But it does not stop at being an ingredient added to a dish, dishes that are made from yoghurt alone are also many like the savoury karhi and chaawal that comes to the plate in a variety of ways as you travel through India, or those dahi vadas we all love. Even the royal kitchens of yore used yoghurt in a myriad ways, from shaping hung curd into the meltingly soft dahi kebabs flavoured with Saffron to Burhani a digestive, drink of curds spiced with garlic and chilli prescribed by the royal hakim, or doctor.

Or so I thought until a trip to Turkey last year.

We were dining at a fabulous restaurant called Ciya that specializes in regional Turkish food, particularly that of south-eastern Anatolia that is justly famous in Istanbul. My local food guide and I were having a delicious dialogue on the many similarities between Turkish and Indian food words (peynir/panir, corba/shorba) when I was offered Ayran, a drink made by mixing yoghurt with water, and salt. In other words namkeen lassi! I was just about to comment on that similarity when we are served siveydiz, a soup of lamb, yogurt, and green garlic shoots. So unfolded another fascinating aspect of similarity between Turkish and Indian cuisine; the importance of yoghurt at the table!

For thousands of years, yogurt has been an important part of the Turkish meal. In Turkey like in India, a dish yogurt is a must on any traditional Turkish table – either accompanying another dish or in a dish as the main ingredient. Yogurt is also used to make soups and even sweets. Another reason why Turks hold yogurt dearly is that all over the world it is consumed and known as “yogurt,” which is a word of Turkish origin. The word derives from Turkish yoğurt,[2] and is related to yoğurmak 'to knead' and yoğun 'dense' or 'thick
It is not possible to pin down where yoghurt originated, possible it was discovered in different places simultaneously. But discovering its importance at the Turkish table, brought home to me the fact that there is so much you can do with yoghurt that it is tough to fit into the space of one post. That said however, a bit of yoghurt can make life in the kitchen easier and allow you to add immense variety to the meals you serve.

Yoghurt and sesame gratinated Potatoes
This recipe is a sexed up version of a traditional Garhwali recipe – Khatte Aloo. It was a big hit at my health special workshops at nature’s basket recently. Do it as a summer casserole, add a salad on the side some sweet wine and you are set…

Time taken: 30 mins. Serves: 1

2 potatoes, boiled with very little water
1 c yoghurt, hung for ½ hour
½ c toasted sesame seeds (or 3 tbsp Tahini)
1-2 green chilies
1 tsp oil

Place toasted Sesame in a blender and process to a paste. Add green chilies and process until incorporated. Add yoghurt and process again until incorporated completely (You should end up with a batter the consistency of dosa batter so add a little milk if it is too thick). Set aside. Place a non stick frying an on a medium flame and brush with oil. Slice the boiled potatoes into ½ inch thick rounds, arrange in a single layer in the frying pan as you slice. Pour the Yoghurt over the potato layer spreading with a spatula so everything is evenly covered. Raise flame to high and allow cook until the moisture has completely evaporated (about 10 minutes).

Yayla Chorba
Yayla means ‘mountain pastures’, which is where this popular yoghurt soup originates from. Since milk spoilt easy during summer, the nomadic herdsmen and the earliest settler’s of Anatolia (Asia Minor) converted the milk into yoghurt and prepared this dish. Chorba is Turkish for ‘soup’, a corruption of the Persian word ‘shuraba’, which is derived from shur (salty) and aba (food). In Arabic, ‘shuraba’ means ‘meat broth’. And in India, the Mughlai cuisine calls soup ‘shorba’!

Recipe courtesy Selin Rozanes of Turkish Flavours1 litre/ 4 cups beef stock (substitute: chicken/ vegetable stock)
1/2 cup rice, rinsed and drained
2 cups yoghurt
2 tbsp flour
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
Salt to taste
4 tbsp black pepper, freshly ground
4 tbsp butter
4 tsp dried mint
Paprika flakes to serve (optional)
Place rice in saucepan with stock; simmer for 25 to 30 minutes or until rice is tender and has released its starch to thicken soup. In a bowl, combine yoghurt, flour and egg yolk; mix well. Stir in boiling soup, a little at a time, mixing thoroughly. Slowly, add this mixture to rice, stirring constantly. Taste; adjust seasoning. Simmer gently for 10 minutes. To serve, melt butter in skillet, add crushed mint, stir and drizzle over soup. Serve hot, garnished with a sprinkling of paprika flakes.

Here are some ways in which I use yoghurt in my kitchen.
Hang yoghurt for a while and then combine with finely chopped green garlic, spring onion or coriander, salt and crushed peppercorns and serve as a dip, salad dressing or topping for crackers.
The Tzatziki is a middle Eastern version of the Cucumber raita. To make it slice a couple of Cucumbers in half lengthwise, scoop out seeds and slice white flesh into ¼ inch crescents. Combine with a cup of yoghurt, a handful of fresh Dill (Sowa) and a crushed clove of Raw Garlic. You can serve this with toothpicks as a starter, in a bowl as a side dish to grilled paneer or chicken with naan.
Shred ½ a cabbage and steam or blanche lightly. Strain and squeeze gently. Combine with a couple of sliced onions and tomatoes and a cup of yoghurt and salt. Temper with garlic and red chillies and eat as is or as a side dish.
Combine 1 cup yoghurt with ½ cup fruit chunks (grapes, bananas or strawberries), add a sprinkle of cardamom powder, a tsp or two of fresh cream and a little sugar. Have over Meusli as a filling breakfast or by itself for a quick snack or light dessert

1 comment:

The knife said...

Knife khush hua :) I am a big fan of dahi in cooking. I often end a meal with packaged dahi too to kill a sweet craving.

I was quite tickled to have Ayran in Turkey. Had some kofta'ish dishes in a yoghurt based sauce too