Jane from Clear has seen a boom of Cucumbers growing this year. In this blog she has some great ideas for cucumber dishes.
It’s always a delight to eat your own home-grown fruit and veg and there is no doubt you become very aware of the seasonality of each product. The first boiling of new potatoes in mid-June has become something of a ritual in my family. The fresh nutty flavour of the spuds, straight from plot to pot to plate and served simply with a little melted butter, is an eagerly anticipated annual event and can’t be beaten. With a little luck, the potatoes are followed by the first strawberries of the season, resulting in a very memorable meal. The flavour of freshly picked fruit and veg is, without question, far superior to anything that has been stored for a while.
If you don’t grow your own, you can still reap the benefits by buying and eating local and seasonal food. As well as tasting great, there are lots of other benefits for you, your community and the environment.
1. It reduces the amount of energy used to, transport, refrigerate and store the food and less packaging is required to keep it fresh, so there is a much lower environmental impact and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
2. It is usually fresher, tastes better and is more nutritious! As soon as a fruit or vegetable is picked, it begins to lose moisture and ripeness, both of which contribute to a loss of vitamins and minerals and flavour.
3. You can help Stop Food Waste! The longer food spends in storage and transit, the higher the chance of it spoiling and becoming waste. If you do grow your own, you know exactly how much time and effort has gone into growing it, and you’re far less likely to throw any of it out.
The only downside, I can think, of to growing your own is that you can end up with glut of one particular fruit or veg. Last year we were overwhelmed with courgettes and this year it is cucumbers. Other than slicing, dicing or spiralising into any number of different salads and giving away as many as possible to family, friends and neighbours, what do you do with dozens of cucumbers? Well, bashing and smashing cucumbers is very “on trend” at the moment, not out of frustration or as a way to get rid of them, but to increase their surface area to absorb flavour.
Chilli Oil Smashed Cucumbers
For a super quick version, you can substitute in your favourite store-bought chilli oil or chilli crisp, but if you have a little more time on your hands—we’re talking an extra 10 minutes here—you can make your own chilli oil with just a few ingredients. The MSG is optional, but…it just won’t be the same.
For the chilli oil
120 ml vegetable oil
2.5cm piece ginger, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tbsp. ground chillies
2 tsp. ground Szechuan peppercorns
1 tbsp. white sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. MSG
1/4 tsp. salt
For the cucumbers
6 Persian (mini) cucumbers
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 tbsp. chilli oil
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp. MSG
Make chilli oil
In a small pot, heat oil until starting to smoke, then remove from heat.
Meanwhile, in a medium heatproof bowl or jar, whisk to combine all other ingredients. Slowly pour hot oil over the spices, letting it sizzle through evenly, streaming gradually and carefully to control the overflow. Whisk to incorporate fully and let cool completely.
Cut each cucumber into three pieces, then use the flat size of your knife to smash each piece into two craggy halves.
In a large bowl, toss smashed cucumbers with chilli oil, sesame oil, and MSG until evenly combined, then season with salt to taste.
Here are a few other tasty suggestions.
Green gazpacho is the perfect light, fresh, cold soup for summer.
- 2 medium cucumbers
- 1 medium white onion
- 1 medium green bell pepper
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 medium avocado
- 1/4 bunch fresh parsley
- 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1 cup water
Remove the ends from the cucumber and slice it in half lengthwise. Scrape the seeds out with a spoon and then chop the cucumber into chunks. Remove the seeds from the bell pepper and also cut it into chunks. Dice the onion. Add the cucumber, bell pepper, onion, and garlic (peeled) to a food processor. Process until the vegetables are minced.
Pull the leaves from about 1/4 of the parsley and cilantro bunches. Add the leaves to the food processor along with the olive oil and the flesh from the avocado. Purée until smooth.
Add the water, one tablespoon of lemon juice, and one teaspoon of salt. Purée until smooth again. Taste the soup and adjust the salt or lemon juice if desired. Serve immediately or chill until ready to eat.
As well as eating cucumbers, they can also make a delicious addition to drinks. A few slices in a jug of water can make a vast difference to “plain old water” and can be made into a celebratory soft drink (which children are far more likely to drink) by adding some sliced strawberries and a few sprigs of mint. Alternatively, you can liquidise them and add to cocktails or mocktails or freeze to make these
grown up ice lollies with a chilli kick!
Mexican Cucumber-Chilli Paletas
- 3 cups peeled, seeded and diced cucumber, plus 1/2 unpeeled cucumber chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
- ½ fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
- ¼ teaspoon chili powder
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup lemon or lime juice
- 9(3 oz.) paper cups
- Lolly sticks
1. In a blender, combine 3 cups cucumber, jalapeño, chili powder, sugar and lemon juice and blend until smooth.
2. Pour mixture over a fine-mesh sieve into a spouted measuring cup; discard extra pulp.
3. Pour reserved mixture evenly into 9 (3-ounce) cups. Top each cup with 4-5 pieces of unpeeled chopped cucumber and stir.
4. Place lolly sticks in the centre of each cup. Place cups in freezer for 4 hours until firm.
Cucumber & Elderflower Spritzer
This light refreshing cocktail and be a mocktail by omitting the wine or replacing it with lemonade.
- 1 cucumber, ends trimmed
- ½ bottle white wine
- 200ml elderflower cordial
- few mint sprigs, leaves picked
- 2 x bottles soda water, chilled
1. Chop the cucumber into a few chunks, then put in a blender or food processor with the wine and elderflower cordial. Whizz until well blended, then pour through a sieve set over a large bowl or jug. Tip the contents of the sieve back into the machine, whizz again until pulpy, then sieve again into the liquid already collected. Add 1-2 tbsp of the cucumber pulp from the sieve into the liquid and discard the rest. Chill until ready to serve.
2. To serve, fill glasses with a few ice cubes and some mint leaves. Pour in enough cucumber base to come halfway up the glass, then top up with soda water.
At the CLEAR Shop at Sandwell Street, Buckhaven, (open Tues-Sat 10am-3pm) we have fresh cucumbers, gherkins, cuca-melons, pickled gherkins and cucumber relish.
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