JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mushrooms in a stabilised yoghurt sauce

At the heart of this sauce is a method which will transform your cooking, if you want to make creamy sauces without using cream or any of those rather nasty-sounding cream substitutes. It's not something I invented, just a simple traditional technique which stops the yoghurt curdling into a bitty inedible mess.

For the past couple of years, much of my cooking has been directed at finding ways to cut saturated fat out of our diet, without fuss, and without compromising the taste. The result has been a light and fresh diet, one in which we cook everything from scratch, which doesn't have to take long (and often doesn't).

This has been much easier for the two of us than for the children, who are still keen to eat huge hunks of cheese, or fatty lamb chops (to name two favourites). And Lettice has developed a fondness for mushrooms in various cream sauces (I blame Antonio Carluccio, as she ate the first one at the new(ish) Carluccio's in Oxford, at the old prison).

The mushrooms I cooked last night are not in themselves particularly exciting, because I was afraid that the sauce would curdle whatever I did to stabilise the yoghurt, so I didn't waste much time on them, fearing they'd end up in the bin.

Mushrooms in a creamy yoghurt sauce

I broke a punnet of mushrooms into pieces, put them in a saucepan with a splash of wine (the end of a bottle), and stewed them gently. After a while, before all the wine had evaporated, they gave up their own juices, and I carried on cooking them until they were nearly dry. I added a splash of balsamic vinegar (because that's how Lettice likes her mushrooms).

Meanwhile, I mixed 1 dessertspoon of plain flour into 3 tablespoons of 0% fat Greek yoghurt. When the mushrooms were cooked, I added this to the pan, and put it on a gentle heat. I wasn't at all sure it would work, and watched the sauce anxiously for signs of splitting, but it didn't, even though I kept it on the heat for about four minutes to cook the flour.

Delicious, the slight sharpness of yoghurt being more to my taste than the cloying sweetness of cream. But as this is not true for Lettice, I'm going to experiment a little further, perhaps adding ground almonds for sweetness. Watch this space.

This is an entry for this month's Heart of the Matter, concentrating on vegetable dishes. I am hosting this time - and I'd love you to participate. Please send the link to your entry to me joannacary AT ukonline DOT co DOT uk, the last day is 22nd June, please remember to link here and that we want only one-event entries.


kathryn said...

Joanna, I've never heard of doing this, but it's a great idea. I personally much prefer the taste of yoghurt to cream - the latter is just too rich and thick for me.

How long did you cook the yoghurt for and does it thicken up, with the flour added in?

Sara said...

I love creamy sauces and this sounds a much healthier alternative, especially as I make my own yoghurt now. Thanks for sharing.
Sara from farmingfriends

Joanna said...

It thickened a little, but not noticeably, and I just cooked it gently for about four minutes, which left a feint taste of flour. I'm going to experiment with using less flour ... also with ordinary low/no-fat yogs - watch this space!


katiez said...

I almost always use yogurt for 'cream' sauces and I can't really recall having problems - or maybe I just didn't care...LOL
I do know that I never cook anything once the yogurt is added - I take the sauce off the heat to add the yogurt.
I also know that whatever you are adding the yogurt to should be of a thicker consistancy than you want the end result to be because, unlike sour cream, the yogurt will thin the sauce rather than thicken it.
It's trickier with tomato-based sauces but a little cornflour or flour first (dissolved in something) - then the yogurt should do the trick, allowing you to cook the flour before adding the yogurt, again, off the heat to prevent curdling. I use both Greek and plain yogurt, but not 0% fat.
Let me know if it works for you ;-)

Joanna said...

Yes, it's fine if you add the yoghurt at the end and take it straight off the heat. This is for those occasions when you can't - and it really works. Thanks Katie for reminding us all about the way yoghurt thins the sauce


MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Joanna this looks like a perfectly wonderful sauce! I simply love it when this work in our favor!!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Joanna this looks like a perfectly wonderful sauce! I simply love it when this work in our favor!!

Cottage Smallholder said...

This sounds good Joanna. Danny brought home some 0% fat Greek yoghurt last week and we tried it in a bean concoction. It needed something else for depth of flavour - I will try your intuitive idea of almonds next time. Thanks.

Jeanne said...

Thanks for this interestign tip Joanna. I must confess I am a huge fan of creamy sauces but I do baulk at the amount of fat they add to my diet. The only yoghurt I've ever used for cooking is in creamy curries or soups and always stirred in at the end of the cooking process. I am intrigued by the idea of ground almonds for sweetness as the tang of the yoghurt doesn't always appeal to me. Let us know how that turns out...