When I confidently ordered my first ayran, expecting a sweet little beverage with which to end my very first meal in Istanbul, I was alarmed to get a mouthful of thick and salty natural yogurt. Though it looks like a smoothie or milkshake, ayran, it turns out, is typically flavoured with salt, and sometimes, raw garlic. Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to have been spared the garlic!
So, this recipe is not for ayran, but for my ‘fantasy ayran’ – the sweet and spiced chilled drink I had imagined I was ordering. (If you want to try the authentic stuff, thin some natural yoghurt with iced water and stir through salt and crushed garlic. I suspect it is less alarming if you are expecting it, though probably still something that it is fair to politely call an ‘acquired taste.’) My ayran is more like lassi but minus the fruit; it capitalises on the myriad yogurt options on offer in my new Middle-Eastern home; and is a wonderful excuse to raid the spice cupboard. Serve it as a little sweetener in Turkish tea cups after a mezze feast, or any time, accompanied by some little squares of homemade Turkish delight.
(Makes four small glasses)
- 720 mls of plain laban (drinking yogurt) or 500g of natural yogurt, blended with water to make 720mls.
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 20 cloves - crushed with a pestle and mortar
- 5 cardamon pods – seeds extracted (discard the pods) and crushed with a pestle and mortar
- 5 tsbp Acacia honey
- 100mls warm water
Dissolve the honey in the warm water and put aside to cool.
Take the chilled laban from the fridge and pour into a jug. Mix through the majority of the crushed and ground spices (reserving just a little to sprinkle atop the individual serves). If you are using set yogurt instead, place this in a blender with 220mls of cold water. Blend on high until you have a drinking consistency. Add the spices and blend together briefly.
Add the honey, and vigorously mix or blend through thoroughly.
To serve, pour into individual glasses, and sprinkle the reserved ground spices on top.