That coral pink sludge we used to buy from the Sainsbury’s closest to our dorm was usually scooped up with salt and vinegar crisps. Taramosalata it was called. My Greek friend MM had introduced me to it, but I am sure it was quite different than the real stuff she was eating back home in Athens. We all loved it, we thought we were the ultimate gourmandes, eating in the common room together, bitching about that Italian Econometrics professor who didn’t really know what that damn Monte Carlo algorithm test was- and neither did we.
Then there was tzatziki, a Greek yoghurt and cucumber dip, also bought at Sainsbury’s. It was probably thickened with gelatin and how they kept the cucumbers ‘fresh and crunchy’ for so many days, well, that would be thanks to the chemistry of preservatives galore. Anyway, we ate that, too. We were proper gourmandes, after all. And with the salt and vinegar crisps to go with the dips, we were really on to something new.
Ah, life in our twenties, when we were so easily pleased. A trip to London on the train to have a coffee at Cafe Nero (ultimate symbol of cool-ness), a meal at some shady Chinese restaurant in Soho where noodle dishes were ample and the stir-fried beef was questionable. Sugared melon juice at a Lebanese place on the Edgware Road and a carb-laden-oily dim sum at Poon’s. A walk through the Covent Garden and finally a film in Leicester Square before taking the train back to our uni town, whilst eating packets of Quavers (don’t judge, please) or some other delectably greasy bag of crisps.
I miss those days not because I yearn for that tzatziki or that awful packaged taramosalata, but because it took so little to make us deliriously happy.
My husband is taking me to Montreal this weekend to celebrate my birthday, and we plan to walk around the alleys of the city, visiting the Montreal bagel bakeries and lazing around at bistros sipping wine. To be deliriously happy with the simplest of pleasures in life.
For those of you who like to work in cups, my recipe is in print in Edible Toronto, here.
Serves 4-6 as an hors d’oeuvre with bread or crisps
*500g full-fat yoghurt (Greek-style or Balkan-style)
*2 English cucumbers (small cucumbers), peeled and diced into small pieces
*50g chopped walnuts
*1 clove garlic, minced
*1 tbsp dried mint, plus extra for garnish
*salt of your choice to taste (I use fleur de sel or maldon)
*dried rose petals, optional, available in Persian grocery stores
*extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
*In a medium bowl, add yoghurt, cucumber, walnuts, garlic, mint and salt. Stir well to combine. Transfer the mixture to a serving dish. Lightly sprinkle with dried mint and dried rose petals (if using). Drizzle with your best extra virgin olive oil.
NOTE: When preparing this recipe in advance, do not add cucumbers to the yoghurt. Keep the diced cucumber and the yoghurt mixture in separate containers, covered, in the refrigerator. Drain the cucumbers in a sieve prior to stirring the solids into the yoghurt mixture.