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RotD 1 July 2014: Ayran

Ever since I started becoming more conscious of the food around me and I ate (which was around high school), I have always had an unhealthy obsession with yogurt. Which is ironic, as we all know yogurt is a superstar in nutrition, and is an alternative for people who can’t stomach milk. It began with the then-fad of frozen yogurt, and evolved into my buying (as often as I can, which is not very much) tubs of plain yogurt as household groceries.

Recently, I’ve found myself browsing Wikipedia or the Web in general reading about foods and cuisines I like. That’s how I stumbled across today’s featured recipe, ayran. It’s a Turkish beverage that’s so ubiquitous and simple to make – as well as terrifically healthy – that it is considered as a national drink of the country. It’s also found in the neighboring countries and to the north.

Ayran is, in a sentence, a yogurt drink with salt added, usually served chilled. It is a healthy drink because it does not contain any sugar (unless your yogurt does contain such), and the salt serves as a good way of replenishing the sodium in our body lost to sweating from either exercise or just plain infernal heat. This apparently makes it a popular summer drink in the countries it is found in, and can also be your post-workout drink!

The Turkish town of Susurluk is home to the best-known ayran, as it is foamy and creamy like a root beer, but healthy. I found this little informational WordPress page on ayran, which contains a brief write-up on the drink, pictures of Susurluk ayran, and two recipes: plain ayran and mint ayran. Since mint leaves are not as easy to come by here as elsewhere, and the sourness of yogurt is precisely what I love about it, I decided to stick to the natural flavor.

It’s very simple and can be done under two minutes. The site provides amounts for four portions: 1½ cups of yogurt, 1½ cups of water, and 1 teaspoon of salt. The only step to do is to whizz everything in a blender for half a minute, then serve chilled (which can be done by using cold water and/or adding ice to the glasses).

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Because, food lover though I may be, I have a discomfort around blenders, I tend to avoid it – or if I really need to use it, I prepare the rest of the dish and have someone else blitz it for me. Furthermore, using a blender means exerting more effort to prepare a machine and washing up part of it afterwards – no thanks. Based on the recipe, the blender does make it foamier, though.

So I took the path of simplicity and brought out – a leakproof tumbler and a whisk. It’s redundant but I did so intentionally to be sure. I placed the yogurt, water, and salt in the tumbler altogether, and whisked it rather vigorously for half a minute to mimic the force that a blender provides. Then, to copy the up-and-down movement of foods being blitzed up, I closed the tumbler and shook for another half minute. Because I didn’t have any cold water (just room-temperature water), I added ice cubes instead afterwards to chill the drink.

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It was heavenly. The sourness of the yogurt married perfectly with the salt’s, well, saltiness. The drink was so good that I made another serving right away – the second glass is what you see in the photo above. Because Nigella Lawson advises that one portion of salt is equivalent to one-half portion of table salt, I used twice as much salt as listed in the site, because what I used wasn’t table salt. While delicious, it was too salty, so I returned it back to the specified amount for the second glass.

I based my quantities on those provided by the site – therefore, one serving used ⅜ cup of yogurt, the same of water, and ¼ teaspoon salt. But I found it so bitin (not enough to satisfy), which was the other reason why I made a second glass, so I recommend two portions from the site for one serving – especially here in our country, where ten seconds outside can leave one reaching for a handkerchief already.

I said above that I rejected the mint recipe because I love the sourness of yogurt and because we don’t have mint leaves at home. That said, I thought of experimenting, but not tonight – I will during the week, when I am sure to finish up my current household stock of yogurt on making ayran. I plan to try adding things like vanilla and honey, or even use Greek yogurt in place of regular yogurt for a (supposedly) healthier and thicker variant.

Ayran

Serves 1

Ingredients:
(¾ cup) plain yogurt or Greek yogurt
(¾ cup) cold water
(¼ tsp.) salt
vanilla, mint leaves, or honey (optional)
ice cubes, to serve

Procedure:
Blitz everything except the ice in a blender for half a minute, or simply whisk and/or shake in a closed container for a minute. Top with ice cubes in a glass.
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