TOTAL yoghurt is totally, one hundred per cent Greek. Not Greek-style, but authentically Greek, as in Nana Mouskouri Greek, only a bit older. TOTAL was born of a traditional Greek recipe in 1926. It’s so natural that all it contains is milk, cream and live yoghurt cultures. It’s a household name here in the UK and has been since it was first imported here in 1983, but how much further than breakfast do YOU think when you open a punnet of yoghurt? Sadly, a lot of folk don’t recognise the massive potential yoghurt has as a healthy cream-substitute for all sorts of kitchen creations. Now, courtesy of the Total Greek Yoghurt cookbook by Chef Sophie Michell, yoghurt’s versatility is highlighted in a great many delicious and healthy ways.
For instance, did you know that Total 0% Greek yoghurt contains only 57kCal per 100 grams? Or that it has a fat content of zero? Okay, you probably guessed that from the name. It’s high in protein, extremely low in sugar, making it ideal for diabetics and dieters, whilst lending its thick, creamy texture to all sorts of dishes, sweet and savoury alike. Even TOTAL’s Classic Greek Yoghurt is still low on calorie count (96 per 100 grams), fat and sugar. So, it scores low where it counts, but is also high scoring in all the right places – like protein and calcium content. To boot, TOTAL is blessedly gluten free for anyone with that particular intolerance.
Science over, let’s flick through the recipes in the book. There are three main sections:
- Small Plates and Soups
- Main Plates
- Sweet Plates, Shakes and Smoothies
Under Small Plates there are wonderful concoctions – both the expected Greek staples, such as taramasalata – this time served alongside green olive and lemon bread containing Greek yoghurt, and dolmades served with a dipping side of yoghurt, but there are also surprises which bring the warm Mediterranean sun out from behind the clouds – such as barbecued watermelon with agave and Greek yoghurt (if you don’t have a barbie, Michell has thoughtfully suggested using a griddle pan). The recipes take their influence from a variety of cuisines, too, so we’re not always going to be noshing down with the gods on Mount Olympus. There are crab cakes and wontons and a ceviche-inspired King Prawn cocktail. The yoghurt may be Greek, but we’re travelling the world here.
For something more substantial, skip to the Main Plates section. Here you’ll find generous salads, a rich macaroni cheese, a very grown-up version of baked beans with mustard (and Greek yoghurt) mash, fish tacos with chipotle yoghurt and pickled red onions, and one-pan meals like the smoked haddock and prawn pilaf with coriander and cashew yoghurt.
When I decided to recipe test from the book I went for an old favourite: potato rösti. Here it’s plated up with smoked salmon, vodka-spiked yoghurt and salmon keta. I was salivating more than Cerberus once I’d chosen to whip up a plate of these, so didn’t make it to the shops to pick up the keta, but next time I’ll make sure to do so (and there will definitely be a next time).
The recipe was straightforward to follow, written (as so many are not) in a logical sequence. Apart from one naughty deviation, where I added one finely sliced small onion to the rösti mixture, because I do so love a bite of onion in my potato cakes, the whole process went like a dream and tasted precisely as it should, give or take an onion. As for the vodka-spiced yoghurt, it’s the essence of simple yet wicked enough to be whipped up and paired with other fishy dishes another time.
Which brings me to the TOTAL + pages. There are four of these: TOTAL +1 is comprised of incredibly short recipes for sauces, dips and the like, made up of a mere two ingredients – TOTAL Greek yoghurt being one, plus one other. Creamy chocolate dip, miso dip, yoghurt-dipped strawberries feature here. So quick, so EASY. TOTAL +2 uses two ingredients on top of the yoghurt component, and there’s a special, second TOTAL +2 page in the Sweet Plates section. Lastly, TOTAL +3 is where to find the recipes for yoghurt plus three ingredients. Your classic tzatziki is here, with a beetroot version, a couple of dressings, a dip (blue cheese) and sriracha chilli and lime sauce.
Just a word on the layout: most of the recipes have a page to themselves, with a glorious photo of either the food or some aspect of Greek life opposite. What I really appreciate about the food styling here is that it looks like any reader can make this food. It isn’t overly groomed or presented as if you need a Michelin star just to deign a peek at the pic; the food is displayed on simple kitchenware and has a slightly tousled, ruffled air to it, as if it’s just been tossed out of a normal pan in an average kitchen, from Anywheres-ville. I find that lack of pretension quietly reassuring. As for the lifestyle images featuring Greece and Greeks, they could be holiday snaps, they’re so relaxed. This only adds to the flavour of the book as no-nonsense and accessible.
The Sweet Plates chapter once again follows world cuisines, but the page I gravitate towards each time I open this book boasts recipes for five ice lollies. In execution, they couldn’t be more basic, yet the flavour combinations of rosewater and pistachio, peach and honey, to give just two examples, evoke images of Halcyon days. As the shortest day of the Northern Hemisphere year approaches, those are images I like to hold in my head and, call me odd, but I’ve always preferred ice lollies in winter. This may well be my next TOTAL-ly Greek kitchen experiment.
Sophie Michell is Britain’s youngest female Executive Chef , running Pont St. at Belgraves Hotel, in London’s Belgravia. She was one of four female chefs tasked with creating The Gorgeous Kitchen at Heathrow’s revamped Terminal 2 (opened in June 2014), co-presents the popular TV show Cook Yourself Thin and is a guest judge on Iron Chef USA. Michell has been travelling to Greece on a regular basis since she was two years old and has drawn on her experience of cooking with TOTAL Greek yoghurt in Crete to inspire this book.
**The TOTAL Greek Yoghurt Cookbook by Sophie Michell is published by Kyle Books and retails at £19.99.