Updated: Nov 17, 2021
"Tzatziki, while being a ridiculously fun word to say and a very good name for a dog if you are in need of one, is a classic Greek condiment made of thick yogurt, grated cucumber, garlic, lemon or vinegar, and fresh herbs like dill or mint or thyme, and sometimes olive oil."
Stacey Ballis - My Recipes
Some friends are coming for a scratch lunch, so to go with the smoked salmon and smoked trout I decided to make a small bowl of tzatziki - see left. It's not going to be as good as some I have made because I only have natural - but organic - yoghurt in the fridge - no Greek yoghurt, and I had no time to hang it up to drain. So it will probably be a bit runny. Also just after I had covered the chopped clove of garlic (quite a lot) with the cucumber and before mixing (fortunately) I remembered that Monika cannot eat garlic! Disaster. On two counts really, because tzatziki is supposed to have lots of garlic, and also because it was already in there and might make her ill. I scooped out as much as I could and I will warn her, but I've probably ruined it now. Garlic seems to be an essential ingredient - lots of it, although some suggested soaking it in olive oil beforehand to sweeten it.
Tzatziki is another one of those things that is absolutely commonplace these days isn't it? In Melbourne's case it's because of the very large number of Greeks who migrated here bringing their lovely food with them. Not that the Greeks are alone in serving this condiment. Just about everyone in the middle-east has their own version - well as far as India even which has raita. And yes, of course, because it is so popular it has been bastardised.
"its reputation has been tarnished by being offered in mass-produced form in every supermarket for consuming with those frightful taco chips for every drinks party from here to Wagga Wagga” Rick Stein
And that mass produced form - I'm pretty sure that both Coles and Woolworths would have several different brands - including a home-brand on their shelves, which I confess I have never tried - is probably pretty awful. Felicity Cloake, who, of course does her thing, agrees with Rick Stein on this:
"bland, watery versions, light on the cucumber and heavy on the cornflour have become the default option in many a dip quartet."
Which isn't to say that you can't find better, more authentic versions if you look.
But, like pesto, I have to wonder why people want to buy these things. After all they are just so simple to make. I remember once deciding I would succumb to buying a jar of pesto because I was rushed, but just could not bring myself to pay the $4 or $5 price tag, when even if I made it with one of the supermarket's relatively expensive bunches of basil - $2.50 I think, maybe $3.00, it would still be cheaper. Well probably not because of the pine nuts, but I had them and everything else at home anyway. It took me five minutes.
Ditto for tzatziki. A relatively longer process because you need to let the cucumbers drain and perhaps the yoghurt too, but once that's done - and that is just sitting time - not active work - then it only takes a couple of minutes to do the rest. You will find many recipes out there - and you could do worse than start with Felicity Cloake's analysis. Personally I usually follow Stephanie's version. However, having now looked at various recipes I see that she doesn't include any lemon juice or vinegar, which almost everyone else does. So I squeezed some lemon juice in today. Otherwise the most contentious issue seems to be whether the herb should be dill or mint. Me I always use mint, but maybe I should try with dill some time.
I suppose the other thing is how you treat the cucumbers - with or without skin, sliced or shredded, just squeezed or left to soak with salt for a bit before squeezing. All a matter of personal taste I think.
But what really started me on this was wondering what I was going to do with the inevitable leftovers. Although I made a much smaller quantity than usual I knew that I would be left with leftovers. And yes they can certainly be used the next time we eat any smoked fish - or fish for that matter. Or come to think of it, next time we have a curry, because it's almost the same as a cucumber raita is it not?
Anyway I had a look online and to be honest didn't find anything much that I hadn't thought of before. After all it's a sauce and/or dip really and can be used as such in a variety of ways. The other most common suggestions were to use it as a salad dressing, on top of baked potatoes, mixed in with mashed potatoes, mixed into mayonnaise.
Slightly more originally are the following, which I gleaned from one of those chat sites:
"I have skewered grape tomatoes and red onion (squarish) slices on toothpicks, with and without various deli meats, and dipped in tzatziki - yummy!" This lady, obviously American was also going to try them with fried green tomatoes.
"yutz it up with chutney or in a tandoori use." - 'Yutz' - now there's a new word. And I think it is being used in a whole new way here, because when I looked it up I found that is from the Yiddish and means a stupid person. I don't think this person had anything foolish or stupid in mind.
"My brother prefers it over cocktail sauce for grilled/roasted shrimp cocktail."
"Rice is bland, tzatziki is wonderful. How can they not go together?"
"mix with more cucumber and stock for a cold soup."
Well it is now the end of the day. Our long lunch is over and the tzatziki was great. Now which of those interesting suggestions should I go for? Very probably the rice or as a raita for a curry It think. Tzatziki - the best use ever for cucumber.