…well, maybe not 101, but there’s certainly more to this fruit than sliced in a salad. And yes, cucumbers are fruits.
A few years ago we grew dwarf variety, two plants which are cropping ridiculously well. If we’d only grown one plant, it would surely have died, as in previous years, but that summer we were awash with them, cropping 5-6 a day. The Bee Gees may have had a Cucumber Castle (how many of you can recall that film, I wonder?) but we have a cucumber mountain!
I’m all for eating 5 a day, but I don’t think it meant 5 cucumbers! I gave lots away, and ate the rest as best and as fast as I could in the hope that like the cucumber, it would make me tall and thin, most probably turning green as a result.
My dear English granny would always and only serve cucs thinly sliced and soaking in malt vinegar – not for me. It seems that was the only way the British ate them, apart from sliced into thin, brown bread sandwiches so beloved of the English garden party and tea at the Ritz!
These cucs, as fat as the normal ones but only much shorter, are too big to pickle and preserve like gherkins, so apart from making tons one of my favourite Greek dishes -tzatziki (yogurt, crushed garlic, and cucumber) and adding them to every sandwich and salad, I used them as a side dish vegetable with a hot food. You may wonder if I’d gone a little mad, but this dish is one eaten often in Germany, and one my mother showed me how to prepare. It’s simple and delicious and goes very well with hot food such as casseroles or steak or chicken (think KFC chicken with coleslaw). It’s especially good with fish dishes and one I always make when serving trout.
Simply peel cuc and thinly slice, add a finely chopped onion, and toss in mayonnaise. Serve within half-an-hour or the water in the cuc will thin down the mayo too much. If you do want to make this more in advance, slice the cuc, put into a colander, sprinkle with salt, and press down with a heavy weight, ie a brick on a plate, to extract the juice. Then, before adding the other two ingredients, pat the cuc slices dry on a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.
Using approximately equal volumes of cucumber, potato and onions (spring onions, including the green parts, also work) simply the peel the two veg, chop into chunks then sweat these two in saucepan in a little butter or oil for a few minutes before adding cubed cuc – no need to peel.
Add enough water or vegetable stock to cover (I used the water my runner beans were cooked in the previous day – full of goodness and flavour), place lid on saucepan and bring to a gentle boil before turning down heat to a simmer for approx. 10 to 15 mins or until veg and cuc tender. Then add in some chopped lettuce, such as cos or little gem, and cook for a further 5 mins.
Add salt and pepper to taste and if you wish, a flurry of chopped fresh parsley. Allow to cool slightly before blitzing with blender until smooth. Serve hot or cold with a swirl of cream or yoghurt. If reheating, do not allow to boil.
Keep a jug of cucumber slices with water chilling in the fridge for a refreshing, cooling summertime drink. Add lemon, mint or other herbs as you wish.
Cucumber slices also go well in gin & tonic.