Originally derived from the Turkish dish cacik (a more liquid version), tzatziki is a sauce, a salad and a soup all in one! In Greece and Turkey it’s served as an accompaniment to meat dishes, but it also tastes great with pita. This recipe pairs lamb keftedakia (mini meatballs) with the dip – I like to add fresh mint in addition to dill to the recipe, but I wouldn’t try that with the Greeks – or the Turks for that matter – It’s a Cypriot version called talattouri.
The creamy tzatziki pairs nicely with the elevated flavours in the ground lamb. These keftedakia are great party food in the perfect bite-sized portions. But, if you’re looking for a more substantial meal, just make them into the larger keftedes. Either way, be aware: a few plates might just be thrown in appreciation. Opa!!
Keftedakia (serves 4-8)
1 ¼ lbs/ 550 g ground lamb
1 shallot, chopped finely
1 sprig of mint, finely chopped
15 pistachios, ground in a food processor
½ clove of garlic, finely chopped
a pinch of red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
- Put the ground meat in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, add in the chopped garlic, ground pistachios, pinch of red pepper flakes and the chopped mint and mix together.
- Form small meatballs and place on a large plate ready to cook.
- Heat a large frying pan with olive oil on high heat and sear the meatballs until they are golden brown. (approx. 2-3 minutes). Lower the heat and continue cooking for a further 4-5 minutes on each side.
- Remove them from the heat, place on a paper towel on a different plate to rest for 2 minutes.
⅔ cup/ 190 g Greek yogurt
1½ clove of garlic, made into a paste with salt
* for talattori – 3 sprigs of mint, finely chopped
bunch of dill, finely chopped
cayenne pepper to taste
squeeze of lemon juice
drizzle of olive oil
- Peel the cucumber, slice it in half and scrape out the seeds using a teaspoon.
- Grate the cucumber into a bowl – it will be very wet so give it a good squeeze to release some of the water. Next, transfer the grated cucumber onto a paper towel, put another piece of paper towel on top of it and put it in a sieve or colander to continue releasing the moisture. This is important to do, otherwise your tzatziki will be too loose!! Let stand for 20 minutes.
- Pour the Greek yogurt into a bowl and mix in the garlic paste. Remove the grated cucumber from the two pieces of paper towel and mix into the yogurt.
- Add the finely chopped mint and dill to the yogurt, squeeze in a bit of lemon juice and a drizzle of olive oil to loosen it up. Mix all together and seasonings with cayenne pepper. Taste and adjust all the flavors.
- Arrange the meatballs on a plate and the tzatziki in a bowl – perfect for dipping. Or, place a dollop of the tzatziki directly on the meatballs for a perfect bite-sized canapé.