So here’s another side dish to try, love and then add to your repertoire.
And now we’re onto #4. Imagine a side dish that you can knock up in single digit minutes and that will have a transforming effect on even the simplest of meals. This is the magic wand of side dishes – a mighty side dish – a side dish that has the power to transform the dull into the spectacular. A superhero of side dishes. This is Cacik.
Cacik (pronounced jajek), is a Turkish dish commonly found in a mezze style spread. It’s somewhere in between a Raita and a Tzatziki – think Raita with added garlic or Tzatziki without the lemon. It’s thick, creamy yoghurt with cucumber, mint and garlic and it’s the garlic that packs the punch and brings a bit of wam bam impact.
This won’t be the first time you’ve heard of this type of side dish for sure, but sometimes we need a little nudge to get it back on our radar – a reminder of how good it is, but also how much lovelier it is when you make it yourself and most importantly how very useful it is to have in your armoury. This is definitely the side dish that I make more than any other. It’s the dish that I throw together to unite other dishes and to add a little ‘va va voom’ to a meal that feels a bit dull.
It’s affectionately known as ‘Finn’s Favourite Sauce’ in our house – and quite clearly Finn has great taste.
And here’s why this side dish will soon be your favourite … as well as Finn’s –
- It’s a dish that can be many things – a dip for tortilla chips, a dressing, an ‘alongside other things’ salad or part of a mezze style spread.
- There’s no need to be particularly precise with quantities here. The basic guidelines are chopped up cucumber, yoghurt (the runnier the style that you choose, the more like a dressing it will become), finely grated garlic, freshly chopped mint and some salt. Depending on the proportions you can tweak it to create the consistency and taste that you prefer.
- A little drizzle of olive oil at the end will give you that cheffy ‘I know what I’m doing‘ look.
- Swap dill for mint if that’s what you have to hand; use the cucumber with or without skin. This is free form cooking.
- This is not one to make way in advance – two reasons – firstly the cucumber gets watery and makes the salad too runny, but also the raw garlic can become a bit harsh when it’s no longer freshly grated. But fear not – a dish that’s as quick as this really doesn’t need to be prepared ahead of time. Serve it chilled too.
- This really is an insanely useful dish. The other night our dinner was some leftover ham from Christmas from the freezer, a little Moroccan Couscous, a green salad and this cacik. It was yum.
- But this can also be a tasty appetiser with some fresh bread, perfect on a burger, lovely with grilled meat or oily fish, a spectacular mayo substitute in sarnies (especially with some leftover roasted lamb and a few rocket leaves), delicious on a crunchy baked potato … the possibilities are endless. A spoonful straight from the bowl is pretty good too …
Throw this together and be pleased with yourself …
- 500g (18oz) plain yoghurt - I prefer a thicker style such as Greek
- 1 large cucumber or 4 small Middle Eastern cucumbers
- salt to taste - you need to be surprisingly generous
- a large handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, depending on how big they are and how garlicky you like it
- a little olive oil for drizzling
- Peel and dice the cucumber and tip it into a mixing bowl.
- Now tip the yoghurt into the bowl and add a little salt, the mint (saving a little to garnish) and a little garlic finely grated garlic (I use a Microplane). Go easy on the garlic at first - you can add more, but you can't take it away.
- Give everything a good stir and taste. You may need to add more salt and/or more garlic.
- When the flavours seem balanced, tip the cacik into a serving dish, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with the reserved mint and serve.
- This makes a large quantity. As the cacik doesn't keep well, do make a smaller amount if you won't use it all straight away.