Yogurt is one of the fermented foods developed by primitive people the world over. In Middle Eastern households, making yogurt is an almost daily activity. It’s an essential part of the Middle Eastern diet being referred to as “Persian milk” in Baghdad, as mast in Iran, as laban in Syria and Lebanon, laban zabadi in Egypt, and madzoon in Armenia. Yogurt is also an excellent source of calcium and phosphorous, vitamin A, several B vitamins and zinc.
As it’s more digestible than milk, it makes a great food for people with lactose intolerance. It also works wonders for the digestive system helping to keep the good bacteria intact within the intestine. Our Middle Eastern cooks have not only mastered the art of making fine yogurt they have championed its uses in a myriad of ways. Not only is yogurt splendid in drinks, it makes a wonderful meat marinade, a fine addition to cakes, and can be used as a low fat substitute for sour cream in salad dressings and dips, and it is also used as a basic liquid element in meat and vegetable dishes.
If you are buying yogurt look for natural yogurt without a lot of sweeteners, colouring, flavouring, emulsifiers, thickeners and other chemical additives and be sure that the yogurt you buy has live and active cultures. Homemade yogurt is simple to make all you need is milk and a small amount of unflavoured yogurt, here’s how to do it.
CINNAMON YOGURT CAKE
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs orange zest
1 1/3 cups thin yogurt
1/4 cup sugar
4 tsp cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F
Combine 1/4 cup sugar with cinnamon and set aside
Cream butter with sugar until light and creamy, add eggs one at a time, beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add vanilla and orange zest.
Combine flour with baking powder and soda, sift. Add dry ingredients alternately with yogurt to batter in 3 additions, beginning and ending with flour mixture.
Grease and flour a 10-inch tube pan, place one third of the batter into pan, sprinkle with one-third cinnamon, sugar mixture.
Layer with another set of batter and sprinkle on cinnamon sugar, add last amount of batter and top cake with cinnamon sugar.
Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until golden brown, springy to the touch and mixture comes away from the sides of the pan.
Remove cake from oven, cool on rack for 10 to 15 minutes.
Makes one 10-inch tube cake
MINCED LAMB KOFTAS
1 lb minced lamb
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground, roasted cumin or geera
1 teaspoon, roasted, ground coriander
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbs unflavoured yogurt
1 tbs finely chopped chadon beni or fresh coriander
Vegetable oil for frying
In a large bowl combine the minced lamb, salt, pepper, geera, coriander, mint, garlic, yogurt and chadon beni.
Form into small meat balls about 1 inch in diameter.
Heat oil in frying pan and fry meat balls until brown and cooked through. Drain and serve with tamarind chutney.
Makes about 30 meat balls.
6 cups milk (any type)
1/2 cup evaporated milk
3 tbs powdered skimmed milk (or full cream)
2 tbs natural unflavoured yogurt
Boil milk until frothy, cool to 109F stir in evaporated milk and powdered milk.
Stir in yogurt and strain into a glass container.
Cover and let stand undisturbed for 12 hours in a warm part of your kitchen, ovens are good here.
Stir the yogurt, it will be thick almost like pourable custard.
Refrigerate and sweeten if desired.
Thick store bought yogurt usually containers stabilizers and thickeners to get it to that very thick consistency.
Makes 7 cups