The title says it all, really.
Cucumbers are superb flavour sponges, that seem to have a made-in-heaven affinity with an acidic medium.
In Northern England, for example, we often make a cucumber and onion relish by very thinly slicing those ingredients, and letting them sit in a bowl of malt vinegar for a good, long while. A little patience then rewards you with a delicious accompaniment to roast meats or poultry for very little effort.
This was an attempt to recreate the starter I ate during our recent visit to Malmö’s Kin Long Restaurant.
De-seeding the cucumber, by cutting it in half lengthways and then scooping out the seeds with a teaspoon, takes only a few seconds, but removes all and any trace of watery blandness, leaving behind a delicious, and surprisingly crunchy vegetable.
Yes, I know that technically the cucumber is a fruit, but let’s not get distracted by such philosophical conundrums….
Unless you are a degenerate chilli-head with taste buds that slightly favour the sour over the sweet, you’re probably going to have to play around with the quantities of sweetener and chilli flakes here.
As per usual, until I know that the base concept’s about right, I like to keep things as simple as possible, before adding other ingredients.
Now that I’m happy enough with this dish as a starting point, next time around I might just experiment with a splash of honey in the marinade, for a more rounded sweetness and a slightly stickier consistency.
The chances are that I’ll also work in a bit of Sichuan pepper powder, as well as some roasted sesame seeds.
Although I’ve deployed it here as a starter, this dish is also a perfect counter-top snack type affair, one of those you just take a nibble at every time it takes your fancy.
That’s the paradox, though – it gets better the longer it sits there, marinating away, but it’s so damn tasty to start with, that the chances of it lasting beyond the first few hours are practically zero.
Hot, Sweet, and Sour Cucumber
- 1/3 of a cucumber
- juice of a lemon
- juice of a lime
- 2 tsp coconut sugar
- 2 tbsp hot chilli flakes
- sesame seed oil
- Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Cut the cucumber into strips resembling slightly chunky matchsticks.
- Place the cucumber strips in a non-metallic bowl. Sprinkle over a little salt. Sprinkle over half of the coconut sugar. Mix well, and then sprinkle over the remainder of the coconut sugar. Mix well.
- Pour over the combined lemon and lime juice. Mix well.
- Sprinkle over the hot chilli flakes. Mix well, and then leave to marinate as long as you can resist the temptation to dive in and wolf the cucumber down. Obviously the longer you leave it to marinate, the better.
- When you can no longer stand it, transfer the cucumber to a serving plate. Spoon over a little of the marinade, and dress with a drizzle of sesame seed oil. Transfer the remainder of the marinade to a small bowl, and use as a dipping sauce.