Yoghurt is one of the most important components of the modern Turkish diet and, certainly in my experience, there is rarely a table where it isn’t featured in some form or other; as part of a main dish, or as a dip mixed with a copious amount of chopped herbs, in a dessert or even as a drink (ayran, a refreshing blend of plain yogurt, ice-cold water and salt ). On Mondays, our evening meal consists of various small plates of leftover salads, rice dishes and hummus (when I cook, I always make enough for 6-8 people so we have stuff in the fridge for unexpected guests and healthy lunches on the run). On days like these, I will make a yoghurt-based dish that is designed to cut through the rainbow of flavours; it’s always fresh from the tub and mixed up with whatever I have in the house, including the jugs of fresh dill, mint and parsley I keep on my kitchen window sill. There’s a Turkish proverb that states that ‘every man has his own style of eating yoghurt’ meaning that others may have a different way of doing things so we should learn to be tolerant. So, I might call this Turkish yoghurt but it may not be that Turkish in essence. Or maybe it is. It’s certainly inspired by the dozens of mezze-style feasts that we’ve shared with friends in and around Istanbul. You get my point. Anyway, here’s the recipe for the version I’ve just made for tonight’s table.
250g good quality Turkish yoghurt (Greek yoghurt is also fine)
1tsp of dried mint
Zest of 1 lemon and a teaspoon of the juice
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp of pul biber
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to your taste
How I make it
Mix together the yoghurt, the dried mint, the lemon zest and juice, the garlic and half of the pul biber, mint leaves and olive oil. Season to taste.
Turn out into a bowl and garnish with the remaining pul biber, mint leaves and olive oil.