Classic culture can be so improving: Be it strained or made of sheep's milk, Greek yoghurt is the creme de la creme, adding richness to simple sauces, fragrant curries and exotic desserts

THERE'S enough yoghurt and cheese in the house to feed an army. This is not a deliberate tactic on my part; we're not expecting the hordes to descend. It's just something that seems to happen almost of its own accord whenever we arrive in France.

My enthusiasm for yoghurt comes, I think, from my childhood. We spent three or four months in this same house every year, buying most of our food from the same small town nearby, where the Wednesday market is still the highlight of the week. Twenty five years or so ago, eating yoghurt was not a habit that had grabbed the Brits, whereas in France it was in full swing. Le yaourt was considered very good for the health, and it tasted tres bon, particularly with a dollop of homemade jam.

If truth be told, there's now a much better selection of natural yoghurts to choose from in your average British supermarket than there is here. Low fat, very low fat, full fat, creamy, set or runny, bifidus, goat's milk and, to my mind, the kings of them all, the Greek sheep's milk and strained yoghurts.

You can easily make your own (boil a couple of pints of milk, then cool to blood temperature, stir in two tablespoons of 'live' yoghurt, cover and leave in a warm place overnight), but it hardly seems worth the bother these days. Your time would be better spent making thick, rich strained yoghurt: line a sieve with a double layer of muslin and spoon in plenty of good- quality yoghurt, gather up the ends, knot with a piece of string and suspend over a bowl or the sink, allowing the whey to drain.

After 4-6 hours the strained yoghurt is thick enough to use as a soft, creamy cheese, maybe livened up with some chopped spring onions, garlic and a generous helping of chopped parsley, chervil and tarragon. Delicious spread on bread.

Leave it for 12 hours or so and you end up with what is known as lebne in the Middle East. The consistency should be firm enough to mould, either into little cheese shapes that you can roll in toasted sesame seeds, crushed peppercorns or chopped herbs, or into balls that can be preserved in olive oil, with the addition of a few flavourings, such as garlic, chilli or sprigs of thyme.

Unstrained or slightly strained yoghurt can, of course, form the basis of many simple sauces and dips, the most obvious being the Greek tzatziki, great on its own with warm pitta bread, but also a good partner for grilled fish or lamb. For this, dice cucumber finely, salt and leave to drain for an hour. Rinse and dry before stirring into the yoghurt along with crushed garlic, a hint of vinegar if needed, salt and pepper. As a replacement for cream in fruit fools and gelatine-set fruit creams, the thicker Greek yoghurts are unbeatable.

When it comes to cooking proper, by which I mean heating, yoghurt cannot be substituted directly for cream as it has a tendency to curdle - not a pretty sight. There are methods for stabilising yoghurt, but I have never found any of them particularly satisfactory. If flour and/or eggs are involved in the mixture (as in a quiche filling), then you are usually on safe ground, though if overcooked, the end result may be rubbery.

The richer and creamier the yoghurt, the more stable it is in cooking, so always go for the luxury end of the market if in doubt. They taste nicer in any case.


This heavily herbed, yoghurt cheese comes from Margaret Shaida's superb book The Legendary Cuisine of Persia (Lieuse Publications, pounds 19), which this week won the Glenfiddich Food Book award. The recipe is thought to come from ancient Assyria. Eat it thickly spread on crusty bread, as the first part of a meal or a cheese course, or use as a sandwich filling.

Ingredients: 2oz (60g) mixed, finely chopped fresh herbs, mint, dill, chives, coriander and/or parsley

4oz (120g) strained yoghurt

2oz (60g) fetta cheese

2oz (60g) unsalted butter


Preparation: Blend the yoghurt, cheese, and butter together, then mix in the chopped herbs and a little salt if needed.

Potato & Cauliflower Curry

From India comes a host of recipes in which yoghurt is used as the basis of a sauce. It is heated thoroughly and survives; as far as I can tell, this is due to the method of adding the yoghurt gradually, and the effect of mixing it with the ground coconut. Here the combination makes a fragrant vegetable curry with an intimation of sourness.

Serves 4

Ingredients: 10oz (300g) small new potatoes, or waxy salad ones

10oz (300g) cauliflower florets

4 green cardamom pods

1tbs coriander seeds

1/2 tbs cumin seeds

2 dried red chillis, deseeded and broken into pieces

4tbs desiccated coconut

1 scant tsp grated fresh ginger

8fl oz (200ml) Greek-style thick yoghurt

1 1/2 oz (45g) butter

2tbs sunflower oil

1 small onion, grated

1oz (30g) toasted flaked almonds

1tbs chopped coriander leaves


Preparation: Boil potatoes in their skins until just tender, but no more. Remove skins, and cut in half. Steam or boil the cauliflower until barely cooked. Drain well.

Split the cardamom pods and extract the black seeds. Mix with coriander and cumin seeds. Dry fry in a heavy pan over a high heat until they smell of incense. Tip into a bowl. Dry fry the chilli and then the coconut and mix with the spices. Cool, then grind to a powder and mix with the ginger and yoghurt.

Melt the butter with the oil and fry the potatoes and cauliflower briskly until patched with brown. Set aside. Add the onion to the fat and fry until golden brown, then stir in the yoghurt mixture a tablespoon at a time. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes, then stir in 2tbs water, followed by the potatoes and cauliflower. Stir until piping hot, and then serve sprinkled with almonds and coriander leaves.

Marinated Lamb Chops

The natural acidity of yoghurt works as a tenderiser for meat. After just an hour, the effect is minimal, but the chops will still gain in flavour. If you can leave them for 24 hours or, better still, 48 (covered, and in the fridge), then you will really notice the difference.

Serves 4

Ingredients: 4 lamb chops

Marinade: 1/4 pint (150ml) yoghurt

1tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1tbs finely chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, crushed

salt and pepper

Preparation: Mix the marinade ingredients and smear over the lamb chops. Leave for at least an hour and far longer if possible - up to 48 hours. Grill under a medium heat until browned and just cooked, but still pink at the centre - about 5 minutes each side. Alternatively, fry them in a little oil until cooked.

Yoghurt Mango & Lime Fool

This is a pleasingly exotic fool that pairs the turpentine sweetness of mangoes with the sourness of yoghurt. The crowning glory is the tangle of lightly candied lime zest. Later on in the summer, adapt the method to peaches or strawberries (crushed with a fork and stirred in, rather than processed), replacing lime with orange.

Serves 6

Ingredients: 1 lime

4oz (120g) castor sugar

2 mangoes

1/2 pint (300ml) Greek yoghurt

Preparation: Pare the green zest from the lime and shred finely. Blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain. Put the sugar in a pan with 4fl oz (100ml) water and bring up to the boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the lime zest and simmer for 10-15 minutes until translucent. Scoop out the zest and reserve the syrup.

Peel the mangoes and cut the flesh into chunks. Process or liquidise, with the yoghurt, the juice of half the lime, and two tablespoons of the syrup. Taste and add more syrup or lime juice if you think it needs it. Pile into 6 individual glasses or small bowls. Chill for at least half an hour. Just before serving scatter with the threads of candied zest.

Suggested Topics
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform