Not so Cool Cucumbers

Every time I wander through the vegetable garden, cucumbers virtually trip me up. They are self-sown, growing wild between other more ordered plantings, scrambling over paths and up reo metal structures. Not having the heart to pull them all out when they were petite little specimens with delicate yellow flowers, I am now paying for that weakness. These cucumbers make the zucchini look polite. On average, I pick 10 a day and although I try to nab them while they are dainty and seedless, many reach adulthood. At the beginning of summer, when they’re cool and welcome, I grate them into garlicky tzaziki or serve them in various brines and vinegars, just like my grandmother Maggie used to do. I’ve also pickled a few jars with dill and am now wondering what comes next. Last night the cucs got the hot Sichuan treatment with this spicy dish by Fuchsia Dunlop. The best part of this dish is smacking the cucumber with a rolling pin- very therapeutic. It’s a wonderful side dish served alongside other dishes as part of a Chinese banquet. I attempted to eat this dish on its own as a little Chinese entrée, chopsticks in one hand, chilled rosé in the other. The dish needs friends, both culinary and human.

Smacked cucumber in garlicky sauce (Su an ni pai huang gua)

  • 1-2 cucumbers ( 300 gr )
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp Chinkiang vinegar ( black vinegar- no substitutes)
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp chilli oil – optional
  • A pinch or two of ground, roasted Sichuan pepper

Put the cucumber on a chopping board and smack it a few times with a rolling pin or the flat side of a cleaver, until some cracks appear on the surface. Then, holding your knife at an angle to the chopping board, slice the cucumber on the diagonal into small chunks.

In a bowl, mix the cucumber with the salt and leave to sit for 10 minutes to draw some of the water out of the cucumber. Stir together all the remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Drain the cucumber, then pour over the sauce and serve right away while still crunchy.

Do you have any memorable and unusual cucumber recipes? Leave a cucumber recipe comment below. Francesca xx

18 thoughts on “Not so Cool Cucumbers”

  1. I love these Sichuan cucumbers too. Cucumbers make great soup, it subtle and fresh. Make a puree, cooked unpeeled with a little onion and garlic then thin it with cream. Add some mint, it’s delicious hot or cold. It works equally well if the cucumber has been frozen, or make a thick cooked puree, freeze and finish it off when ready to serve.

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    1. That sounds wonderful Sandra. I know you also make a version of this hot cucumber dish too. I’ve never thought of freezing cucumbers but may do so now. I’m looking for a beachy dish to serve to friends so will take the blender down to the camping kitchen. Thank you.

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  2. Oh sugar, wish my cucumbers would self-sow!! (Perchance someone warned them about being smacked for their trouble!) Bad jokes aside . . . have to get some black vinegar my rather well equipped pantry lacks 🙂 ! Really want to try especially since I always tell others I love Szechwan Chinese best and I have not used cucumbers quite this way . . . Fuchsia Dunlop: a name I have not heard for some time other . . . thanks for today’s homework . . . (silly suggestion: if the cukes get atop you: what about an old fashioned table with an honesty box outside your gate . . . )

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    1. Could do that too Eha, though that box is 400 metres away from the house. And we get a fair amount of hoon through traffic. I’m handing them around to all my family and may take a box full down to the beach with a help yourself sign. That’s a good idea Eha- wished you lived next door to take my spare phallic specimens- zucchini and cukes.

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  3. Our cucumber crop, along with everyone else locally I’ve conversed with about the topic, has been lean this season. I had excess gifted mangoes and cucumbers as happens this time of year. So I made a fresh salsa by cubing one of each, mixed through a splash of sesame oil, a few chopped basil leaves and a dollop of homemade chilli sambal (made with grated carrot) given to me by the G.O.’s cousin, who by the way is a huge fan of your peanut sauce recipe. I’ll be repeating the salsa this weekend. Would also work with peaches, nectarines or tomatoes in lieu of mango.

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