Ayran, shanina or mkheed are not just arabic tongue twisters. They are different names for a wonderfully refreshing savory drink made of yogurt that is very popular in the middle east. The idea of a drink made of yogurt might sound strange but trust me on this one and give it a try, even if with one cup only. You will thank me later 🙂
When I was 7 and my younger brother was 5, our family went on a road trip to Turkey through Syria. I have fond memories of that trip but the one that always comes up when we mention that summer is how me and my brother were nearly lost in Istanbul because of ayran!
It was a beautiful sunny morning and our guide arrived early at the hotel to continue our tour of the city. He would take us in a beautifully decorated horse carriage through different markets and monuments trying to teach us a few Turkish words along the way. We stopped at one of the markets and went for a walk. Along the way we passed by this shop that served fresh juice and they had a huge fountain that didn’t have water! It had Ayran instead! Me and my brother were enchanted by it but mum and dad decided that we should move along and we followed them reluctantly. A few shops down the line , mum and dad were checking out a gift shop and me and my brother got bored and decided to go back to the magnificent fountain. We waited for a moment when mum and dad were not looking and rushed outside and down the street to the ayran fountain.
Mum tells me of the icy cold feeling that washes over you the minute you realize that your child is missing. It paralyses you and for a few minutes, panic takes over and the only thing your brain can do is think of all the horrible possibilities. Two kids, in a foreign country, in a huge city, we don’t speak Turkish, and most people there don’t speak arabic.
A frantic search through the gift shop and the surrounding shops, a call to the police and a horrible 15 minutes later they find us standing by the ayran fountain unaware of how the same 15 minutes that passed in the blink of an eye for us were the longest and most horrifying 15 minutes my mum recalls of our childhood.
You’d think that after this incidence ayran would have been banned from our house or dubbed that drink that must not be named but it wasn’t. We loved this drink as kids and still do as grown ups and my mum makes plenty of it every summer.
Yogurt vs Whey: You will find many recipes and variations, the recipe I am sharing today is my favorite. My kids actually like to drink the whey (the liquid you get from straining yogurt to make greek yogurt or labneh) with a little salt. My husband on the other hand likes his drink to be 100% yogurt with a little salt (Blending yogurt turns it into liquid). The moral of the story is: use my recipe as a guideline and play around with the proportions and see what you like best.
Additions: the most common addition is salt but you can add mint and even a little garlic too, again try out different addition and come up with your perfect blend
Ayran (Shanina or mkheed)
1 cup (250 ml) greek yogurt
3 cups (750ml) Whey
Salt to taste
Blend the yogurt ,whey, salt (if using) and mint (if using) in the blender or food processor till completely combined
Before I let you go, tell me my dear reader. Did you ever get lost as a child? care to share the story?