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Year of the yogurt

Yogurt may be the cornerstone of your kid’s packed lunch, but it’s also one of the most diverse ingredients in the professional kitchen. Whether it’s frozen and churned, or cultured and strained, yogurt has earned its place on the modern menu and is getting a thorough beating everywhere from cool cycle cafes, to Michelin-hungry restaurants. Yes, yogurt might just be one of the chefs’ best-loved ingredients for 2018…
The rise in popularity of ‘brunch’ has paved the way for a long line of cool cafés and in many cases has delivered a healthy boost to the restaurants and food service operations who have decided to open and staff a morning shift. The dense texture of strained, or good Greek yogurts has provided a luxurious backbone to granola and fruit bowls, dishes that can give the kitchen a great return. Of course the whole smoothie set is propped up by yogurt too and with the pursuit for ever-more esoteric flavours, alternatives like kefir are also getting a lot of attention.
Yogurt has become known as a low fat alternative to cream because it has the ability to deliver richness and body, without so many troublesome calories. What’s more, with cultured yogurts now available with varying levels of lactic acidity, yogurt becomes quite a versatile low fat alternative as well. From being used in baking, to creating dips, sauces, drizzles and garnish, yogurt is capable of partnering with sweet and savoury.
In fact as Middle Eastern and various cuisines from the Levant continue to come to the fore, yogurt is actually seeing a lot of action in the savoury department. As chefs have risen through the ranks of the Ottolenghi empire they have often gone on to open their own restaurants like Bala Baya and London’s most hotly anticipated opening, Scully. Here you’ll find a bergamot labneh, which is a version of strained yogurt. The dry citrus fruit famously used in Earl Grey tea now gets to work its mesmerising magic through the thick textured milkiness and provides a cooling and refreshing accent to an aubergine sambal. And this is perhaps one of the more underexplored areas of yogurt use. Infusing yogurts to be used in a savoury manner, as opposed to always flavouring yogurt for sweet purposes.
Frozen yogurt has endured a long love affair in the US, but never really found fame here in Britain, perhaps due to poor quality sour versions. Today though, we have plenty of that lower fat, less sour, albeit sweeter frozen yogurt on offer in the UK. Self serve chains like Snog are aptly demonstrating there is a market for it, and places like Frae, Yog and street food vendor Moto Yogo are thriving. The pan-Asian chain Itsu is also in on the action.
So whether you’re in the midst of planning spring and summer menus, or devising a new concept altogether, be sure to consider yogurt in those plans because its potential is huge.