a cooling summer essential: cacik (turkish cucumber, herb and yoghurt sauce)

cacik (turkish cucumber, herb and yoghurt sauce)
I've always loved plain old yoghurt. I like to use it as a marinade and meat tenderiser, or with fresh fruit for breakfast. Having a cooling yoghurt and cucumber condiment such as raita has always accompanied my curries. But I have to confess that the Turkish Cacik or Greek Tzatziki yoghurt and cucumber sauces had always left me a bit cold. And then I had my light bulb moment.

I used to go to a Turkish deli near where I worked to pick up a salad box for lunch. The deli had a beautiful selection of delicious seasonal and classic salads as well as mezze. If I went for the 3-salad option, it was always I bit of no-brainer. Kisir, a spinach, walnut and feta salad, and roasted sweet peppers or a spiced chickpea salad. If I went for the 5-salad option, I had to try something new. I could fall back on my favourite standbys such as dolma or a fragrant tomato salad, but I felt as if I should always try at least one thing each week that was new. That way I managed to work my way through their entire, ever-changing and seasonal menu.

This is why I had left cacik until more-or-less last. Yoghurt and cucumber with a few herbs? It wasn't rocking my world. But I was wrong. How wrong, I was! The deli's cooling cacik was gorgeous - a thick, creamy yoghurt perfumed with dill and mint, and studded with small chunks of thin-skinned Turkish cucumbers.

Use Turkish dried mint rather than fresh. Fresh mint turns the yoghurt sauce bitter and an unappetising colour after prolonged exposure.

I am very fond of cacik as an accompaniment to roast lamb, lamb meatballs or with salads such as couscous and kisir. It's rather good in a smoked salmon sandwich too!

Serves 4
Skill level: Easy

ingredients:
2 x small Turkish cucumbers
450ml natural yogurt
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried mint
1-2 x garlic cloves, very finely chopped
water (optional)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1-2 tbsp fresh dill, roughly chopped
a few pinches of Aleppo peppers or chilli flakes, to serve (optional)
fresh dill, to serve

directions:
  1. Make the cacik by cutting the cucumbers in half lengthways and then scrape out the seeds with a teaspoon. Finely chop the cucumbers. (If the cacik is going to be made some time in advance, you can if you choose salt the cucumbers by sprinkling over ½ tsp salt. Leave to drain for 30 minutes. Rinse the cucumber then pat dry with paper kitchen towel.)
  2. Mix the chopped cucumbers with the dried mint, half the olive oil and chopped garlic.
  3. Add the yoghurt and combine well. If the yoghurt is particularly thick, then you may want to thin out the sauce with a little cold water.
  4. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate before serving.
  5. Before serving, drizzle over the rest of the olive oil, sprinkle with a few Aleppo pepper flakes and chopped fresh dill.

1 comment:

margaret21 said...

Is Turkish dried mint very different from ordinary dried mint? I have no idea where I could source any that's specifically Turkish. Idem the cucumbers: are they small and squat as opposed to long and slender?