The staple snack of recent years has proved to be yoghurt, and producers never seem to tire of yet more variations and flavours. In the kitchen, yoghurt is a useful dairy ingredient and can be used in many ways. But what exactly is yoghurt?
Very briefly, it's milk – whole, semi-skimmed, skimmed or dried – first pasteurised by heat treatment, then cooled to 37-44°C and inoculated with a specially prepared culture. Then the whole thing is incubated at a warm temperature until the acidity reaches a certain level and setting takes place. The yoghurt is then cooled and chilled, ready to be eaten or stored. Apart from preserving the milk, the process adds acidity to the flavour, which is pleasant to eat as it is but is also incredibly good for adding character and flavour to all kinds of dishes.
Wholemilk yoghurt contains 3.4 per cent fat; low-fat yoghurt contains 1-2 per cent fat; and diet, virtually fat-free yoghurt contains 0.2 per cent fat or less.
Organic wholemilk yoghurt: This is a yoghurt made with organic whole milk produced on dairy farms that meet Soil Association requirements, which control the animal feeds and pasture land. It is a completely natural product and contains only 3-4 per cent fat. This is suitable for vegetarians.
Genuine Greek yoghurt: This is another of my absolute favourite dairy ingredients. It's a special yoghurt made from cows' or sheep's milk, which is boiled in open vats so that its liquid content is reduced. The result is a much thicker consistency, giving a more concentrated yoghurt with a fat content of 8-10 per cent. I have a special fondness for it and I love serving it well chilled with lots of lovely Greek mountain honey poured over and pistachios sprinkled on top – in fact I think this is one of the simplest and nicest desserts.
Greek yoghurt is also a very useful ingredient in cooking, since it can replace some of the cream when you wish to lighten dairy desserts. Now you can buy low-fat Greek yoghurt, which can be an amazing 0 per cent fat.
Don't buy Greek-style yoghurt, though, as it simply isn't the same. Look for the genuine Greek version, which is very widely available.
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