Cucumber is just about to come into season this month and while it can be a favourite part of many a summer salad, it is also a lot more versatile than you might give it credit for. It does have a reputation for giving you heartburn etc, but varying reports suggest that can be alleviated by removing the skin or the seeds. At the end of the day, try it every way and if it works for you, then carry on!
But cucumber is not just for salads and can even be enjoyed hot! Here are some ideas for using cucumber (which is especially helpful if you grow your own and end up with too much of it) in some different and tasty ways:
Tzatziki is traditionally served as an accompaniment to a Greek meal but many of us enjoy it as a dip for crudités or as an accompaniment to roast lamb as an alternative to mint sauce. The chances are though that a lot of people simply buy a ready-made carton from the supermarket in with their shopping. It is however extremely easy to make and requires only simple ingredients.
2 x 250g tubs of natural yoghurt
2 cucumbers which have been peeled, de-seeded and then grated using a box grater
2tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1tbsp chopped dill, or mint if you like
Juice of half a lemon
Seasoning to taste
Combine all ingredients, mixing thoroughly. This can be done in a blender if you prefer a smooth texture. Check seasoning and chill for an hour before serving.
This can be served hot, but is also delicious chilled as a starter to a summer barbeque meal.
2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
A bunch finely chopped spring onions
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 litre chicken stock
1 tsp dried tarragon, (or 1 tbsp fresh)
150g soured cream
3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Seasoning to taste
Cook the chopped spring onions in a little butter or olive oil until soft. Add chopped cucumbers and wine vinegar. Pour in stock and add tarragon. Bring to the boil gently and then allow to simmer for around 20 minutes until the cucumbers are soft.
Puree the soup in a blender and pour into a large bowl, whisking in the soured cream. Check for seasoning. Serve in pretty bowls, garnished with thinly sliced cucumber and chopped parsley.
Roast Cucumber with Onion and Herbs
This makes a lovely accompaniment to roast chicken or can be served on its own for a tasty light lunch.
1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, cut in half through the middle and then cut lengthways into ‘spears’
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced
60g butter, cut into chunks, (optional)
Spray oil to stop things sticking.
1 tsp each of the following, (fresh): basil, parsley, mint and coriander
Preheat oven to 175 C (350 degrees F). Line a 9×13-inch baking tray with silver foil. Spray the foil with spray oil. Scatter butter onto baking tray, (if using) and lay cucumber over the top. Scatter onion and herbs over the top. Spray again with spray oil.
Roast the mixture in the oven until cucumber begins to soften, (around 10 minutes.) Turn cucumber and onion over gently, taking care not to break and return to oven. Roast for a further 15 to 20 minutes.
Hopefully, you should now be looking at cucumbers as something other than a boring salad ingredient.