Well, maybe not 101 but there’s certainly more to this fruit than sliced in a salad. And yes, cucumber is a fruit.
We grow a dwarf variety in the greenhouse which is cropping ridiculously well. In fact, we’re 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!
My dear English granny would always and only serve them thinly sliced and soaking in malt vinegar – not for me. It seems that was the only way the British ate them, apart from sliced on thin, brown bread sandwiches so beloved of the English garden party and tea at the Ritz!
So here are a few of my favourite ways to serve them.
Our dwarf ones are as fat as the normal ones but only much shorter but are too big to pickle and preserve like gherkins, so apart from making tons one of my favourite Greek dishes -tzatziki (yogurt, crushed garlic, grated and drained then patted dry cucumber and a squeeze of lemon and sprinkling of dill), and adding them to every sandwich and salad, I make a cucumber salad (below) served as a vegetable side dish, a recipe my German mother often made. 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 and thinly slice, add a finely chopped onion, and toss in mayonnaise. Serve within half-an-hour or the water in them will thin down the mayo too much. If you do want to make this more in advance, put the slices 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 slices dry on a clean tea towel or kitchen paper.
Use approximately equal volumes of diced cucumbers (no need to peel), potato and onions (spring onions, including the green parts also works). Peel potatoes and onions, chop into chunks then sweat these in a saucepan in a little butter or oil for a few minutes before adding the cucumbers.
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 is 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, and of course in Pimms.