The making of yoghurt probably originated in Asia and Eastern Europe thousands of years ago; a response to the need to find a way to preserve milk beyond the first few hours after opening. With this came the discovery of its many dietary and medicinal benefits.
It is now used in many differing and exciting ways, especially on the continent, from marinating beef to use in side-salads and curries. The British are generally more conservative in their use of yoghurt, but it is quickly becoming a very popular dessert or accompaniment to breakfast cereals and is with the increasing trend towards healthier eating, it is at last being recognised and is gradually being used in an increasing variety of dishes.
Production of Yoghurt
Yoghurt can be made from sheep’s, cow’s, goat’s or even soya milk. A culture of special bacteria is added to boiled milk which is then kept warm for several hours during which time the bacteria multiply and convert milk sugar (lactose) into lactic acid. It is the lactic acid which precipitates the curdling of the milk into yoghurt at the same time as suppressing the growth of harmful bacteria, giving a product with a longer life.
Originally (before pasteurisation) yoghurt culture was produced by allowing bacteria from the atmosphere of the local surroundings to grow within the milk. A little of this was then added to fresh milk, allowing the fermentation process to continue. A local culture was believed to be particularly suited to people living in the region and would help to achieve optimum health. However, in today’s technological and modern western world, local ecology has been disrupted by pollution and mobile lifestyles, so changing yoghurt production from a local process to a large commercial organisation.
Yoghurt and its Benefits to Health
Natural whole milk yoghurt has a similar nutritional value to whole boiled milk, being rich in protein and minerals, especially calcium and phosporus. Low fat and fat free yoghurts are made from skimmed milk powder; they have a slightly higher carbohydrate and protein content than whole milk yoghurts. The bonus is that protein, calcium and phosporus are more easily absorbed from yoghurt than from milk as they are partially digested during the fermentation process.
The digestive system and fighting infection
Lactobacillus Acidophilus is probably the most commonly used bacteria culture today and this is thought to colonize the intestines with essential digestive micro-organisms, probably due to the fact that yoghurt bacteria aid the synthesis of valuable vitamins which in turn stimulate the growth of beneficial intestinal bacteria, discouraging and destroying harmful ones. Live Yoghurts are especially beneficial in this way.
Yoghurt can be helpful in restoring the digestive tract to its normal condition after a course of antibiotics which are liable to indiscriminately destroy all intestinal bacteria, both good and bad.
Yoghurt can also be used in a similar way in the treatment of thrush where bacteria have reached a state of severe imbalance.
Yoghurt can be tolerated by some people who are unable to digest dairy products where the condition is due to the loss of the enzyme lactose during adulthood. This enzyme converts lactose to lactic acid and without it, any lactose ingested in milk products will sit undigested in the intestine, attracting water and causing bloating, abdominal cramps and diarrhoea. As lactose is already converted to lactic acid during the manufacture of yoghurt, it is more easily digested by people with a lactose intolerance than other dairy product.
Leeks in Yoghurt Sauce
8 slender leeks
juice of a large lemon
1 level teaspoon salt
12 black peppercorns
12 fennel seeds
6 coriander seeds
6 sprigs of parsley
2 shallots (peeled and sliced)
Sauce: 8 fl oz natural yoghurt
3 egg yolks
2 tsp lemon juice
salt & pepper
parsley to garnish.
Bring to the boil 3/4 pint water, lemon juice, spices, herbs and shallots. Cook for 10 mins. Prepare leeks and put in a frying pan. Pour broth over the top. Cover and simmer for 10-15 mins until leeks are soft. Leave to cool. Beat yoghurt, egg yolks and lemon juice together and place over a pan of gently simmering water. Cook for around 15 mins until thickened, stirring frequently. Season with salt, pepper and mustard. Drain the leeks and cut into 2 or 3 diagonal pieces. Arrange in a serving dish, spoon yoghurt sauce over the leeks and sprinkle with parsley. Serve cold wth chicken or fish.
Kashmiri Yoghurt Soup
1 peeled diced cucumber
1 peeled clove garlic
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 1/2 pints natural yoghurt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped mint
Put cucumber in a dish, sprinkle with salt and leave for 30 mins. Rub the inside of a large serving bowl with the sliced garlic. Rinse the bowl with vinegar and shake it out. Spoon yoghurt into bowl, thinning down by stirring (add water if necessary). Drain cucumber, mix into yoghurt and chill for 30 mins. Just before serving, blend in olive oil, a few drops at a time and sprinkle with mint.
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