Yogurt is great stuff especially the kind we get here in Turkey which is absolutely delicious: thick and creamy.It is one of my must-haves in the fridge. Strange to think I used to yearn for the fruity version! Yogurt in Turkey is used mainly as accompaniment to savoury dishes or in something like this cacik. It isn’t considered a dessert. Cacik (difficult to say as c is pronounced j in Turkish) is similar to the Indian raita and the Greeks also have a lookalike. In other words, a side dish made with cucumbers and refreshing yogurt. In the UK I have just about stopped buying cucumbers as they are so tasteless and watery. In this area, they have one local type that is pale in colour, with huge seeds, and bristles to boot. I steer clear of those. But when you see good ones, you know: firm, dark green and not too big.
I thought I would go to the Tuesday market in Ayvacık yesterday. In case you are interested in wild life around here, on the way, I saw 2 dead hedgehogs and then on the brighter side, a tortoise slowly crossing the road. I usually jump out of the car and carry them to the other side to make sure they don’t get hit. Anyway,this market is a mini-version of the Friday one and therefore easier – and quicker – to navigate especially in this heat.
When I saw this minibus stuffed to its rooftop with garlic, I just had to take a photo.
The seller was quite bemused that I wanted a picture but he certainly didn’t mind. I guess he sleeps easy with no fear of vampires! I just hope he knows how to keep all that garlic from drying out. I mean, I only buy about 3-4 at a time for that reason and here he has millions! He says proudly on his sign: these are all mine! 1kg for 4 liras. The mind boggles at how many you would get for a kilo!
Anyway, I proceeded and bought my kilo of cucumbers for the usual rock bottom 1 lira. I had yogurt at home. Pelin goes through bunches of fresh mint at a rate of knots with her teas so I got some more. These are the three basic ingredients for cacik as well as the garlic.
Mix about 6 tbsps yogurt in a bowl vigourously with a spoon. I’ve got this great wooden spoon that I love – it’s got a stunted handle and just seems to fit my hand. The idea is to make the yogurt smooth. Add a little cold water and a swirl of olive oil. Now comes the garlic. Crush about 3 cloves but it does depend on how much you love it! We do! Now, take your cucumbers. About 5 should be enough. With your peeler – I am in love with my IKEA one – peel them and then wash. Dry. Then holding one in your hand, cut through in quarters all the way down. Hold them tight and cut bits off the top into your yogurt mixture. The idea is not to make regular-shaped cubes but more irregular pieces. Some people like to grate their cucumbers which is also nice but different.
Then add either some dried mint or if you have it, as I certainly do, some fresh leaves chopped up. Decorate with a sprig or two of the fresh. You can also add another swirl of olive oil.
In our family, we tend to like our cacık on the thick side. Other people like it more liquid. As with everything, it is up to you and your personal taste! It is served in individual bowls and eaten with a spoon as an accompaniment to the main course. In summer it is considered very refreshing and ice cubes can be added as an extra cooling agent.
- This lovely garlicky yogurt mix can be used to great effect with grated carrot or courgette, both of which are uncooked. The courgette is very watery so has to be squeezed, haberin olsun! That means, be warned!