Friday, 18 January 2008

Two meze dips: Tzatziki and tarator

I have been having what in Japan we call a "my-boom" (personal "boom") in meze (or mezze) this last little while. It seems I just can't get enough of dips and nibbles these days. I think it is the zippy taste, and the fact they are so healthy.

Now I know that in some countries a whole section of the supermarket fridge is given over to commercially produced dips, but Japan isn't one of these.

Though, having made a few at home myself, I don't know why anyone wouldn't bother to make their own. I mean, it's not exactly hard to throw a few things you are likely to have in the kitchen anyway into a bowl and stir them up.

As it happens, two different sources of meze dips I have been using recently are actually one and the same: Anissa Helou's Modern Mezze.

Here is one from each.

The tzatziki recipe calls for Greek-style yogurt, which is not exactly a supermarket staple in Japan. You can substitute 600 g of plain yogurt, strained in a kitchen sheet-lined sieve for half an hour or so. It gets creamier the longer you drain it and also makes a great substitute for sour cream and creme fraiche, which seem to be popular in recipes coming out of the US and UK. If you are using it in a dish that needs further cooking, wait until the very end so you don't break it.

The tarator was another one of those revelations for me. I mean, how many recipes are there where water is not a cooking medium or soup-base, but an integral ingredient? Without it, you are not going to get the lovely pale colour of this dip. Incidentally, tarator seems to be a generic name for sauces/dips containing nuts (at least in Turkey).


This dip is found with slight variations in Turkey [Saffron note: where it is known as cacik (pronounced "jajik"). Live and learn!], Greece, Lebanon and Syria. The following recipe is Turkish in origin. For a Lebanese or Syrian version, replace the dill with 1-2 tbs powdered dried mint [Saffron: I made the Lebanese version and it tasted just like the Greek dip we had in Australia].

Serves 4

4 small Middle Eastern cucumbers or 1 regular cucumber [Saffron: I used 1 Japanese cucumber and quartered it lengthwise, sliced it then squeezed out the juice by hand in the Japanese way]
sea salt
450g Greek-style yoghurt [Saffron: see note above]
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2-3 tbs chopped dill
paprika, for sprinkling
dill sprigs [Saffron: if using dill (g)]

If using small cucumbers, halve lengthways and slice thinly. If you have a standard cucumber, peel, halve, deseed and grate, then salt slightly. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then squeeze to get rid of excess moisture.

Mix the cucumber, yoghurt, garlic and dill together in a bowl. Taste and adjust the salt if necessary. Spoon into a serving dish and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika and serve garnished with dill.

Tarator (sesame dip)

Serves 6

It is essential to serve this simple dip [when having] falafel, but it's also very good with crudités, or thinned with water to make a salad dressing.

5oz/140ml tahini
Juice of 1½ lemons, or to taste
3½ floz/100ml water
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed

Put the tahini in a bowl and gradually stir in the lemon juice, alternating with the water. It will thicken and then gradually get thin to the consistency of double cream. Taste as you go, since you may not want to add all the lemon juice [Saffron: or you may want to add even more (g), in which case you might want to give priority to the lemon juice over the water]. Add garlic and sea salt to taste and mix well.

There, easy wasn't it?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This dish is faboulus, I grew up with this kind of chicken in pita pockets.