TOMATO SOUP WITH YOGHURT
The Real Greek at Home
by Theodore Kyriakou & Charles Campion
The 6th December is Saint Nicolas's Day, an important Greek national holiday. Because my father is an atheist, rather than allowing us to get involved with the festivities, he would send us off to a village in ‘Western Macedonia’ to spend the day with a sheep farmer. I learned a lot about sheep, but even more about yoghurt. Greek yoghurt is made from sheep's milk, which has a fat content of 10 per cent, whereas cow's milk yoghurt has only 4 per cent fat. In the restaurant we use a traditional sheep's milk yoghurt. The taste of Greek yoghurt changes with the seasons because milk is richer in fat in the winter than it is in summer. The most delicious yoghurt is "strained yoghurt", which is used to make genuine tzatziki. Once the yoghurt sets, it is stirred, placed in cheesecloth, and left to hang for 12 hours. This drains of f all the excess water, and the resulting yoghurt is firm enough to be sold by weight.
• 200ml (7fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
• 500g (18oz) button onions
• 2kg (4½ lb) fresh tomatoes, skinned, seeded and very finely chopped
• 150g (5½ oz) trahanas (a kind of tiny pasta about the size of a pine needle; you can substitute coarse bulgur)
• salt and pepper to taste
• 300g (10½ oz) strained Greek-style yoghurt
• a few fresh mint leaves for garnish
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, then sweat the button onions for 5 minutes with the lid on.
2. Add the tomatoes and bring to the boil. As the mixture boils, skim off any impurities during the first 5 minutes.
3. There is a secret to cooking trahanas so that you get the classic sloppy texture. You need seven parts liquid to one part trahanas. Judge the quantities by eye and add boiling water to the tomato and onion pot as necessary. When you have the right amount of liquid, add the trahanas. This works for bulgur as well.
4. Simmer over a low heat for about 45 minutes, until the soup is thick and the trahanas or bulgur is soft. Adjust the seasoning.
5. Serve in individual bowls, adding a large dollop of strained yoghurt in the middle and garnishing with fresh mint leaves.