The sun is blazing, and I may be slightly regretting designing the patio with white, “where-are-my-shades-I-am-blinded” white, white stone. What was imagined as the perfect, bright sunny spot for al fresco dining is now a hell-like inferno by dinner time. Even the cat will not walk over the new stones, mincing instead in and out of the flower borders with his silly cat sashay, while throwing back evil glances at me for ruining his shortcut to heaven, aka the tall brick wall that stands between his lust and that naughty tabby temptress next door. So, I am going to cool things down a little today with a Tzatziki dip with pitta bread as an hors d’oeuvres. And shift the garden dining table into the shade.
The basic “you must have these or it wont work” ingredients are cubed or grated cucumber in Greek-style yoghurt. Additions include a clove of crushed garlic, either a handful of chopped dill or chopped mint (I prefer the mint), couple of squeezes of lemon juice or a dessert spoon of white wine vinegar and the same of olive oil, with salt and pepper seasoning to taste.
I don’t care for cucumber seeds, slimy things, so I tend to take these out before I chop up the cucumber into small chunks or grate it. Your chunks can be as big as you like, if folks are choking though you could always claim it is rustic-style. Some people salt their cucumbers first, just sprinking salt over the chunks or grated cucumber and letting it sweat. I tend not to bother, though it does depend, some cucumbers can be particularly bitter and salting fixes that. Pat off the resulting salty, watery mix after half an hour or so with kitchen roll if you do decide to do this.
I mix up the oil, vinegar or lemon juice with the garlic, grind in some black pepper and then mix with the cucumber and mint/dill. I fold that into a tub of Greek yoghurt. A small tub of 200g and a half cucumber is plenty for 2 people. Use the larger tubs (usually 500g) and a whole cucumber if you are feeding more.
Refrigerating Tzatziki for a long time kills the flavours, so it is better to make it close to when you will be eating it. Serve with whatever dipping mechanism is your favourite, warmed pittas, corn chips, flatbread… I sometimes serve Tzatziki made with mint on the side of grilled lamb chops, like a sauce.
Raita Recipe Variant
The Indian version of Tzatziki, commonly called Raita, tends to have fresh coriander and mint, sometimes with added cayenne pepper and/or paprika. It may be a little runnnier in consistency and the cucumber is always grated finely. Sometimes these versions have a spoon of spicy cucumber chutney stirred through. Raita is a common name, but other regional names exist for this dish. It’s all the same idea though, a cooling dip for a hot climate and an all round wonderful thing.