One of my favourite things in the entire world is yoghurt. I attribute this to my Cypriot heritage because Greeks eat the stuff with everything – from rice and meat dishes to making tzatziki or just plain out of the tub. It’s a sad fact that for years I couldn’t eat it because the watery texture of Australian yoghurt grossed me out, but then I went overseas…..
Whenever I go back to Cyprus I really look forward to the food, but especially the yoghurt. It’s nothing like the watery slop that goes by the name of “Greek-Style” that we’ve been sold for years in Australia. The proper Greek stuff is strained which is a relatively new concept in Australia. All Greeks know that you can’t make a proper Tzatziki without first straining your yoghurt overnight.
In Cyprus and Greece the yoghurt that you buy in supermarkets has been strained to rid itself of excess whey (the watery stuff that pools in your tub of yoghurt after you’ve taken a spoonful out). The result is yoghurt that is so thick you can hold the container upside-down and it won’t budge, and all without the assistance of gelatine. And the great thing is that the straining process means that it’s possible to buy a yoghurt that contains only 2% fat (and often 0% fat) but is creamier and thicker than anything you’ve ever had in Australia, full-fat or otherwise.
Most of the stuff you buy in supermarkets in Greece and Cyprus is strained – it’s the standard. Every morning in Cyprus I would pop down to the supermarket near our hotel and buy a small tub of Φαγε (Fage) or Zita 0% and some fresh figs brought in from a local farm and eat them with a drizzle of local honey. It was HEAVEN. And every day since that holiday I’ve been praying that Fage or Zita would announce that they were selling their products in Australia, which unfortunately has not happened.
However in very recent times a couple of other Greek yoghurt brands have filtered through into the Australian market. One of these is Chobani which is actually from the USA, but utilises the technique of straining. It’s available in many flavours plus the usual plain 2% or 0%. Another brand is Danone Oikos which I am yet to try, although I had tried its earlier incarnation which was called Danone Greek Yoghurt and that was quite good too. Neither comes anywhere near the Cypriot brands but they’re miles ahead of the gloop we’ve been sold as Greek-Style until now.
Of course the other way to get real Greek strained yoghurt is to strain it yourself, although it’s less cost effective than buying it already strained. Be prepared to lose about 50% of the tub contents because that’s how much watery whey is in unstrained yoghurt, but you will be left with the most beautifully creamy yoghurt with the thickness of sour cream.
1kg tub plain unstrained Greek-style yoghurt
muslin or chux cloth (clean and unused!)
bowl to catch liquid
1. Line sieve with muslin and suspend over bowl.
2. Pour yoghurt into the sieve and leave overnight in fridge. Empty bowl of liquid at regular intervals.
Note: I usually leave the yoghurt in the sieve indefinitely (until it’s eaten) as the longer you leave the yoghurt in the sieve, the more liquid will come out. Also bear in mind that full-fat yoghurt works best as it tends to lose less water than low-fat varieties.
I am very passionate about yoghurt (as I think this post has proved) and I’m pleased that we’re starting to get some of the real thing in Australia, but I’m still dreaming of my Fage with figs and honey….