More than a fire-extinguishing condiment, a way with raita that’s a side dish in its own right.
Raita is the best known of the yoghurt-based fire extinguishers served alongside chilli-fuelled curries – it’s the fat in the yoghurt that tames the burn. The addition of cucumber helps to cool things down, but when the cucumber is chopped to a pulp you’re going to end up with watery disappointment. I’ve seen (and been served) raita made in a blender, and it’s not pretty.
My way with raita is not so much a condiment as a cucumber salad, livened up with fresh herbs. Instead of being a first aid treatment, to be called on in case of emergency, I think it’s a side dish you’d want to eat in its own right.
The keys to making this work are to use thick yoghurt and generously chunked cucumber. Greek yoghurt is usually thick enough, although any unflavoured yoghurt will be fine. If it’s at all watery, just let it drain through a paper towel–lined sieve for an hour or so and it’ll be perfect.
Sometimes, if it works with what I’m serving it with, I’ll add a half teaspoon or so of garam marsala. With fish curries, especially, lime zest makes a lovely addition.
Makes about 2 cups.
1 large cucumber
250ml (1 cup) Greek yogurt
½ teaspoon sea salt flakes
½ cup coriander leaves
½ cup mint leaves
Peel the cucumber and slice in half lengthways. Remove the seeds by running the tip of a teaspoon from end to end. Slice each half in half again, and cut into forkable pieces, about 1cm (scant ½ inch) wide. Place the pieces on some paper towel to absorb any excess liquid.
Place the cucumber pieces, yogurt and salt in a roomy bowl and gently fold together until the cucumber is well coated. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.
Just before serving, roughly chop the coriander and mint leaves and fold into the mixture.