Turks love yoghurt. Perhaps this is the reason why the rest of the world has adopted the Turkish word yoğurt to describe bacterially fermented milk, one of the few Turkish words to make its way into most western languages. Because in Turkey, yoghurt is appropriate at any time of day: for breakfast, lunch, dinner – or as a snack. Though never in the industrially produced sweetened variety I and many other non-Turks grew up with; indeed many Turks to this day make their own yoghurt at home. And if they don’t, dairy shops and supermarket aisles are flush with choice for a variety of brands and types of natural yoghurt of varying quality.
I’ve long since taken a liking to natural yoghurt. I prefer the strained varieties, often commercially sold as greek yoghurt. And recently I’ve taken to this method of using it: as a sort of dressing for a green leaf salad. I say a sort of dressing, because it is really much more than that. It adds a richness and depth few dressings can. And, of course, I use plenty more of it than I ever would a conventional dressing. So I call it yoghurt sauce instead. But whatever you call it, it is absolutely delicious this way!
I use purslane, a popular leaf in Turkey and much of the Middle East. Although it grows abundantly in the wild, it is considered a weed in much of the western world and so not harvested for consumption. Purslane is very mild in flavour, similar to lamb’s lettuce. If you can’t get hold of purslane, lamb’s lettuce or, indeed any mild green leaves or a mixture of them, will work well.
Steeping purslane in yoghurt is the common way of serving it in Turkey, although the amounts of yoghurt used can vary considerably. Some versions actually look like they might as well be tzatziki or cacik, the Turkish equivalent. So if you really love yoghurt, feel free to use (considerably) more than I’ve done here.
This salad works well as a side to anything with strong flavours, such as barbecues. But really, it works with just about anything where you would otherwise consider a mild green salad. Serves 2-3 as a side.
- 200 g yoghurt (I use a greek-style variety)
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 100 g lamb’s lettuce, purslane or other mild green leaves
- pinch of pul biber or smoked paprika, to garnish (optional)
- salt and pepper
- Mix together yoghurt, olive oil and lemon juice. Season.
- Tear the salad into small, individual leaves and carefully mix with the yoghurt sauce. Serve immediately, sprinkled with a little pul biber or smoked paprika, if you feel like it.
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Food from Turkey, the Middle East & beyond. 🇳🇴 in Istanbul.
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