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Yoghurt gets a Mediterranean flavour

india Updated: Jun 19, 2010 20:49 IST
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Variations of this dish are found from Turkey through the Middle East, and no wonder — a combination of subtle spices and cool yoghurt make this a wonderful way to eat spinach.

What you need...
1 clove (1/8 teaspoon ground)
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds or cumin seeds
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 garlic clove, cut in half, green shoots removed (more to taste)
Salt to taste
1 cup hung curd
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pine nuts
1 12-ounce bag baby spinach, washed

1. Heat a small dry skillet over medium heat and add the clove, allspice berries, and coriander seeds or cumin seeds. Heat, shaking the pan, until the spices begin to smell toasty, about three minutes. Transfer to a bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes, then grind in a spice mill. Add the cinnamon, and set aside.

2. In a mortar and pestle, mash the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt to a paste, and stir into the yogurt. Set aside.

3. Place the baby spinach in a bowl, and add just enough boiling water to cover. Let sit for a couple of minutes, then drain, rinse with cold water, squeeze out excess water, and chop coarsely.

4. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy skillet, and add the pine nuts. Stir for two to three minutes. Remove and set aside. Add the spices. When they begin to sizzle, add the spinach, toasted pine nuts, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, until the spinach is heated through and coated with the oil and spices. Serve topped with yoghurt.

Variation: Replace the pine nuts with 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts.

Yield: Serves three

Cucumber and yoghurt dip

Called cacik in Turkey, tarator in the Balkans and tzatziki in Greece, each version of this salad is a variation on a theme: yoghurt, cucumbers, garlic and fresh herbs. The yoghurt is thick and pungent with mashed garlic, while the cucumbers are finely chopped or grated, then salted and allowed to wilt. Walnuts enrich the Balkan dish, which is also considered a soup, as is cacik.

What you need...

1 cucumber, finely chopped or grated with skin
2 cups hung yoghurt
2 to 3 garlic cloves, mashed to a paste with 1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint Freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

1. Toss the cucumber with a generous amount of salt and leave in a colander to wilt for 15 to 30 minutes. Rinse and drain on paper towels.

2. Beat together the yoghurt, garlic, mint and olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cucumbers. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Variations: Add 1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts, and stir in with the other ingredients.

Add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice or white wine vinegar

Yield: Six servings

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