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Gourmet Secrets: Creamy, but without the calories

Greek yoghurt is the latest buzz word in the world of health food

brunch Updated: Dec 24, 2017 00:09 IST
Karen Anand
Karen Anand
Hindustan Times
Greek yoghurt  can be easily turned into a yummy boursin dip
Greek yoghurt can be easily turned into a yummy boursin dip

The latest buzz in the world of health food has to be “Greek yoghurt”. Truth be told, there is nothing particularly “Greek” about this product. But in just 10 years or so, Greek yoghurt has become a several billion dollar industry in the US alone. The Greeks hang their yoghurt, which is made from sheep’s milk, for use in tzatziki, a refreshing dip made with cucumber and mint that is an integral part of the mezze table. The varieties of Greek yoghurt commonly available all over Europe and the US are made with cow’s milk. Does that make the American products inferior? No, not at all. In fact, quite the contrary. The end product is rich and creamy and has no “barnyard” sheep milk odour or aftertaste at all. So what is all the fuss about?

People in the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean have been hanging yoghurt/dahi/curd for centuries for use in dips, marinades and to thicken sauces. The difference is that this is a ready-made product, easy to buy and consume. It can be used in the same way as hung curd, but is much more stable. I now read that the boom is also all about calories. Greek yoghurt, because of the straining, has more protein and less sugar from the liquid whey and lactose (which is thrown out in the straining process) which makes it very effective as part of an overall weight loss diet. It also tastes good. Much better, in fact, than ordinary dahi, even if it is hung. There doesn’t seem to be any unpleasant sourness in Greek yoghurt.

Greek dahi

I have been wondering how long it would take a clever businessman to figure this out in India. First came the ready-to-eat natural yoghurts made by and large by all the dairy giants and multinationals – of course. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover Indian made Epigamia Greek yoghurt at my local supermarket last year. I feared that it may be removed from the shelves for lack of response, but hey, no. They are all over the place this year and have increased the number of flavours too. In addition to ‘natural’, they also have strawberry, mango and vanilla, and I have recently seen a wild raspberry and pink guava.

Having done some research on Greek yoghurt, what I am so proud of is that they beat a lot of the products I have tasted in the UK, not all of which are actually “hung”, I now read. Some have added gums and things to thicken them artificially, but they are still allowed to be called “Greek” simply because they are thick. So really they should be called “Greek style” if anything.

I use Epigamia as a dip, in a tandoori or malai tikka marinade, just as it is with a bit of honey instead of dessert. It is also great with granola or cereal. I have just noticed that they have come out with just that - a container on top with granola in it. A container of Epigamia contains the protein value of 1 ½ eggs or 2 cups of daal it seems. It also has double the protein and calcium than regular yogurt and is all-natural with no preservatives. Good stuff all round then.

Indian, Greek and French

Because the product doesn’t “weep” water as traditional dahi or even hung curd tends to, I have found I can use it for several things in every day cooking, even in hot sauces. I often use it instead of cream in light whipped fridge cheesecakes instead of cream (I haven’t tried it in a baked one).

This is one of my oldest recipes... when I came back to India in the mid 1980s, I missed the tastes, flavours and smells of Europe. I spent a huge amount of time (alas, something I don’t have too much of today) working on substitute ingredients in recipes I tried to replicate here. Using ‘local’ wasn’t a fashionable term then. It was more a necessity since we had very few imported ingredients. It was an era of real creativity and innovation! Cream cheese was something I often substituted with a mix of hung curd, cream and mashed paneer... all sorts of madness to make a cheesecake or a boursin dip. Here is my circa 1985 recipe for Boursin. I now substitute the hung curd with Epigamia plain Greek yoghurt. It works perfectly and takes no time at all!

Boursin

Boursin has always been everyone’s favourite ‘fancy cheese’

Makes three cups

Ingredients

250 g paneer (malai paneer)

125 g Epigamia Greek yoghurt (natural)

3 tbsp cream

3 tbsp oil

1 tsp garlic

½ tsp black pepper, coarsely crushed

¼ tsp mixed herbs

½ tbsp salt

1 tsp lime juice

Method

Cut paneer into cubes. Put everything into the mixer except the mixed herbs and black pepper. Add the oil a little at a time until the dip is blended to the consistency of a thick mayonnaise (very smooth). Add the pepper and herbs by hand. Pour this mixture into a bowl lined with muslin cloth. Fold over the cloth to cover the cheese and place a heavy plate on top. Refrigerate overnight. De-mould the boursin the next day. It should be thick to spread on crostini or eat as a dip.

Author Bio: Culinary expert and explorer Karen Anand has been writing extensively on the subject of food and wine for 30 years. Apart from having her own brand of gourmet food products, she has anchored top rated TV shows, run a successful chain of food stores, founded the hugely successful Farmers Markets, and worked as restaurant consultant for international projects, among other things. Her latest passion is food tours, a totally curated experience which Karen herself accompanies, the first of which was to Italy.

This is a fortnightly column. The next edition will appear on January 7.

From HT Brunch, December 24, 2017

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