4 November 2013

Sneaky sun rays caress my face on a lazy Sunday morning.
This is the first clear memory from my childhood – full of light and smell.  The fresh tangy smell of the strained yoghurt that spills around the whole house and I know that my Sunday starts with the promise of a something special.  Mama is making Tarator!  Not the daily Tarator summer soup that we can make with eyes closed, but the “dry” Tarator.  Ah!  I can eat it with the big spoon!  Straight from serving bowl...
I was expecting my first daughter Apollonia when general discomfort and heartburns were making my nights hard to get some rest.  I asked my doctor for some natural way to help me.  He said “Eat fresh food.  Have more yoghurt, olive oil, walnuts, dill, cucumbers, and even crushed fresh garlic.  They'll help your tummy settle down and ease your heartburns and it is good for the baby”.  All I was hearing was “Eat Tarator!  Eat Tarator! Eat Tarator!”, because these are the staple ingredients of the Tarator.  And that is what I did.  I went to the local Green Grocer and picked the freshest and crisp ingredients and went home to hang the yoghurt in the muslin to strain.

Curled up on the couch next to the window I could hear from the kitchen this tiny-tiny sound “drop, drop, drop” and the house was starting to fill more and more with the smell of strained yoghurt whey.  My childhood returned like strong wave tides with flashes of sunlight jumping from the leaves through the Linden tree, with smell of Mama’s cooking and the wholesome feeling of being loved and happy!  I touched my belly; I knew that all I wanted to give my precious baby is that loving feeling that has been holding me like a warm hug, like an honest kiss on the forehead.  My remedy Tarator became a tribute to carefree childhood memories and I wished upon a wish for the best childhood I can possibly give my child.
Here we are now, making Mama’s Tarator for countless times.  Trust my recipe and every time and effort that you'll put in it will reward you.

1 litre yoghurt
4 fresh and crisp flesh cucumbers – stay with Lebanese or Telegraph cable cucumbers – diced in small cubes about ½ cm each side. DO NOT GRATE!
3 gloves of garlic
1 cup of walnut kernels
1 bunch of fresh dill – washed and finely chopped
Olive Oil – to taste

Salt – to taste

Thoroughly wet and squeeze kitchen muslin and pour in it a litre of good quality full cream yoghurt.  The wet muslin prevents the yoghurt from sticking in.  Leave to strain overnight.
Peel and dice the cucumbers with very sharp knife avoiding any bruising that may make them soggy.  It is imperative for a true Tarator to be made with fine dices of cucumber because it keeps the ingredient intact as much as possible, it doesn't bruise and therefore the water doesn’t escape and every little bit stays fresh until consumed.  It also gives the best sensation in the mouth when eating Tarator, because with every bite the little dices burst in your mouth and fill you with feeling of exploding freshness.
In a mortar prepare the Walnut, Garlic and Dill Pesto – crash carefully the nuts, garlic and dill mixed with a pinch of salt and dash of olive oil.  Grind it gently until you get one smooth and fragrant pesto.  Add if need be some more grains of salt and drips of oil, but make sure you are getting the natural oils of the walnuts themselves.  They are extremely nourishing, wholesome and jam packed with good omegas!!!
In a large mixing bowl place the strained yoghurt which by then would look and feel more like a ball of soft cheese.  Break it with whisks and mix until smooth, add the walnut, garlic and dill pesto and continue to mix.   Add the diced cucumbers and stir very gently.  Add salt and generous amount of olive oil.  Try it and adjust if needed.
Now sprinkle with a handful of finely chopped dill, decorate with drizzle of olive oil and enjoy it!

Every bite you take you are filling your body with pleasure and bursting surprises of flavours and textures and most of all – a mouthful of health!  Tarator is a symphony of wellness in its own right.

Here are some facts about the benefits of Tarator:
Yoghurt –
It is a great source of probiotics specific to certain strains of "good" bacteria.  They adjust the microflora in the intestines and also act directly on body functions, such as digestion or immune function.  Yoghurt gives good dose nutrients like calcium, vitamin B-2, B-12, potassium and magnesium.
Cucumbers –
Aid digestive disorders like acidity, heartburn, gastritis and even ulcers can be cured by the daily consumption of fresh cucumber.  The water and fibre in cucumber are very effective in driving away the toxins from our digestive system and hence aid digestion.
Olive oil –
Among the myriad benefits of this gold in liquid, it was an ancient practice to address all digestive problems with a good spoon of olive oil.  And yes – I go to big lengths to find olive oil produced from Crete.  It is the Rolls Royce of the olive oils!!!
Walnuts –
“The food for brain” as Dad use to say, walnuts contain essential omega-3 fatty acids in higher amounts.  They are an excellent source of antioxidants, manganese and copper.  Walnuts offer calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, vitamin E and zinc in large amounts.  They hold abundant anti-inflammatory properties.
Garlic –
It has been praised for so many health benefits, but little is known about the help they give for digestive discomfort.  It aids in eliminating noxious wastes matter from the human body and stimulates peristaltic action and the secretion of the digestive juices.
Dill –
This humble herb has been admired for strengthening the bones, for its anti-bacterial properties, optimising the digestive health and even its calming effect on the body and dealing with insomnia.
*also known as Tzatziki in Greece and some other
countries with diverse  ingredients in the recipes.

Till my next post
My very best wishes to you,

© 2013 - sophia terra~ziva.  all rights reserved


  1. The taste of love and childhood...Amazing post!

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Vesi!
      I hope it tickles your nostrils with the smell of stained yoghurt and cucumber :)

  2. Hi Sophia, what a great post and wonderful photographs. I particularly love the wooden chopping board! but then I would say that!! I showed my husband (as he made it) and he also loved it. Good luck. Angela

    1. Hi Angela, I love the wooden chopping board too and if you look closely you can even see the word France branded on it and few other letters... ;) But I adore the knife! And can you believe it - it is sharp and cutting like through a butter! Say hello to your husband and send him my greatest thanks. I am happy that I have you somehow in my life and art. Sophia

  3. i love dips like this. there's a balkan restaurant in nyc called balkanika and they make the best dips. i'll have to try this!

    1. Hi Dina and thank you for visiting my blog!
      Do try to make it at home and take your time to make it without shortcuts - your senses will be rewarded! :)
      And merry Christmas to you and your family! <3

  4. I didn't know it was really tzatziki. I called it that in my Facebook comment because that's what it tasted like. I can't wait to make it with labneh. I loved your story and even more your tarator!

    1. Maureen, making the Tarator side dish (not the soup) in traditional way is just like following the recipe to the "tee" for mayonnaise. Some people rush it because they wouldn't be bothered, some people simply don't know the recipe. That affects the texture and the general taste. Everything is entangled.
      Yes, we strain yoghurt for many recipes - savoury or sweet. Have you tried mayonnaise with strained yoghurt and chives? Mmmm...

  5. Tarator is a bit different than the way I make Tzatziki. First I do not hang the yogurt, I use plain greek yogurt from the store. I also do not add dill and walnuts. My tzatziki consistency is a lot looser than yours, that being said I am not born in Greece - what I know about Tzatziki. :)
    I did not know it's that thick! :) Thank you Sophia, I am posting tzatziki recipe tomorrow - please do not scold me as it won't be as authentic as yours :))

    1. Looking forward to your post Dolphia.
      Keeping to the authentic recipe has it's charm and big significance - it turns the food from "fast" to "gourmet"... Sometimes is worth to take the time and make the extra effort.

    2. I so agree Sophia. I love authentic and original recipe. Very soon, I will be making yours :)


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