Tarator: Bulgarian Cucumber and Dill Soup

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Summer is finally on its way and although the weather forecast might not really agree, my stomach does and that’s what counts round here. Lighter fare is called for. Which is good news because the half term holidays (not the right time for slow cooking marathons) are here too, bringing with them the lovely relaxed, rush-free days peppered with endless cries of ‘what’s for lunch?’ and ‘when’s dinner?’ Usually before the lunch has even been cleared off the table. I do not exaggerate when I say that two days into the holidays I usually start day dreaming of the return to school, just so the kitchen can be clean for a couple of minutes a day or watching those busy little spring birds with a new found sympathy and respect, slaving around the clock trying to shovel enough food into the mouths of their ever growing offspring. I moan but at least my food gets delivered.

Now you may be wondering what a recipe for cucumber soup is doing here after all that; it doesn’t sound like the most filling of meals. But then a lot of people have got the wrong idea about the cucumber, possibly because of its infamous 95% water content. There can’t be room in there for much else, right? Well (in case you hadn’t figured it out) it’s wrong. Cucumber is surprisingly filling due to its high fibre content but it’s also packed full of anti-oxidants including vitamin C and beta-carotene, kaempferol, luteolin and quercetin which, along with their polyphenol lignans and anti-inflammatory flavonols all helping you lower your risk of several nasty diseases such as Alzheimers and cancer. And it’s low in calories so will fill you up without helping you pack on any extra pounds. Perfect at this time of year when it’s time to drag out the bikini.

But it’s usage doesn’t have to stop at a the traditional sprinkling in a salad, or (if you’re in my house) the summertime glass of Pimms. Tarator, as it’s known in Bulgaria, is to the Bulgarians what Gazpacho is to the Spanish; a quick easy starter or a refreshing snack and a great way to use up any spare cucumbers you might have lying around. It is always served ice cold but other than that, many variations of the recipe exist. Possibly as many as there are Bulgarians themselves but I’m not counting. Lots of people will tell you to grate the cucumber and chop the walnuts by hand, but I’d draw your attention back to the beginning of this post. I repeat; it is half term. So I like to roughly blitz mine in a blender, not so that it is silky smooth but enough so that I don’t have to stand grating things by hand when I could be doing other things. Usually several at once. But this soup is not a culinary prima donna and it won’t hold that against you. Shove it all in, blitz and pop the whole lot in the fridge and an hour or so later you have a delicious and healthy lunch or starter ready to go. Dare I say it, the kids could even make it themselves. Only do remind them to put the lid on the blender. Otherwise the quick and easy mess free lunch bit doesn’t really hold true. Believe me, I speak from experience.

Tarator Recipe

Serves 6-8:

2 medium cucumbers

1 clove garlic

Bunch of fresh dill (enough to give a good couple of tablespoons when chopped)

75 g walnuts, roughly chopped

500 ml natural yoghurt

250 ml water

30 ml olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Pour the water, yoghurt and oil into the blender.

Then top with the cucumber, dill, walnuts and garlic. (Most recipes for tarator will tell you to peel your cucumber, but I don’t like to waste all that lovely fibre, so I like to peel mine in stripes. Peel as you see fit though, and chop roughly.)

Blitz everything and check the seasoning.

Chill until you’re ready to serve. It’s best eaten outside in the sunshine, but if you live anywhere like the UK and the sun is not obliging, don’t worry. It’ll still hit the spot indoors. Enjoy!

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