Robyn Eckhardt documents Turkey’s expansive cuisine from all regions in Istanbul & Beyond.
In Van, yogurt made from sheep’s milk (sometimes mixed with goat’s milk) is drained in cloth-lined sieves for up to three days, resulting in a yogurt more sensuously rich and creamy than any store-bought Greek-style yogurt. With a little advance planning, it’s easy to achieve the same result at home. Add salt, fresh herbs, and chunks of crunchy cucumber, and you’ve got a wildly flavorful dip. My go-to herbs for this recipe are dill and flat-leaf parsley, but you can use cilantro, chervil, mint, oregano, or even tarragon. The yogurt must be drained for at least 24 hours; the longer it drains, the more delicious the result. Don’t throw away the whey your yogurt gives off. It’s a healthy, refreshing drink and makes a great pickle brine. This dish is an essential element of the Van breakfast and often shares a plate with soft unsalted butter, which diners mash into the yogurt with a fork. It also works well as a meze, and I like it alongside roasted vegetables.
- Line a sieve large enough to hold the yogurt with a double layer of cheesecloth. Or cut two large cone-shaped paper coffee filters open along their seams and lay them flat in the sieve, overlapping them at its bottom. Set the sieve over a small deep bowl, spoon in the yogurt, and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 24 hours, up to 72 hours.
- Unmold the drained yogurt, which will now be a solid mass, into a medium bowl. Whisk in the salt, then taste and add more salt if desired. Stir in the cucumber and herbs. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
- Stir in any liquid released by the cucumber before serving the yogurt cold in a shallow bowl, with the butter on the side, if you wish.
STRAINED YOGURT WITH CUCUMBER & HERBS excerpted from ISTANBUL & BEYOND © 2017 by Robyn Eckhardt. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.