It’s not just good for you – yoghurt is meant to be enjoyed as a flavour in its own right.
Infamous warrior Ghengis Khan proclaimed yoghurt his 'secret weapon', and kept goatskins full of this fermented strength-giver handy at all times.
Doctors of old considered it an indispensable cure-all. These days, yoghurt's health benefits are a given, and its creamy texture and slightly tangy flavour form the centrepiece of Middle Easternmarinades, Indian curries and Greek dips. And in its many forms yoghurt is also a blissful treat on its own.
Yoghurt is a creamy curd produced when two 'friendly' bacteria (lactobacillus and streptococcus) are added to pasteurised milk from cows, goats or sheep. The bacteria convert the lactose (natural sugar found in milk) into lactic acid, resulting in coagulation, or thickening of the milk.
Tub/natural or pot-set yoghurt is produced when the bacteria-inoculated milk and any flavourings are poured into individual tubs. The tubs are left in a warm environment for the active cultures to ferment and 'set' the product. The tubs are then refrigerated and sold in shops and supermarkets.
Natural stirred yoghurt is blended in large vats, allowed to ferment, then packaged and sold. Some stirred yoghurts have thickening agents or stabilisers added to produce the desired thick,creamy product.
Greek-style yoghurt has a thick, almost creamy consistency due to its production method and slightly higher fat content (about 10%). It is the best variety for cooked dishes, such as casseroles, curries and potato or pasta bakes.
Flavoured yoghurt is available in many styles. It contains added sugar or artificial sweeteners to enhance flavour, and stabilisers/thickeners, such as gelatine, to achieve a creamy, almost custard-like texture.
Drinking yoghurt is produced in a similar way to stirred yoghurt. Once cooled, the yoghurt is blended with fruit puree or juice. Soft-serve or frozen yoghurt also starts from a stirred yoghurt base. Sugar syrups, flavours, stabilisers and emulsifiers are added so the product maintains a texture suitable for scooping.
Natural low-fat/reduced-fat yoghurt is made from skim or reduced-fat milk and is available in stirred or tub-set styles. Its texture is softer and slightly grainier than that of full-fat yoghurt.
Combine yoghurt with fresh fruit juice and use on cereal instead of milk.
Make your own labna (Middle Eastern soft cheese) by lining a sieve with muslin cloth and placing it over a bowl. Stir a pinch of salt into Greek-style yoghurt. Spoon into muslin. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours. Discard the whey and roll the 'cheese' in finely-chopped herbs or ground spices. Serve with crackers.
Combine yoghurt with curry paste and use as a marinade for chicken or lamb.