0

Some people might think that cucumbers are boring and bland, but nothing could be further from the truth. They are one of those special foods that seem to have many more uses than just the culinary. A quick Google search turns up really useful things like firming up cellulite on skin, soothing dry, tired eyes, relieving sunburn, curing a hangover and, dare I say it, videos about a vaginal cleanse! I’m not sure if any of that is actually true but what I do know is that in the kitchen, the wonderful crunchy texture and the refreshing cleanness of cucumber is a joy to work with, especially now in the summer months as it is about 20% naturally cooler than other vegetables.

At their best, cucumbers have a bright, melony taste (cucumbers and melons are cousins) that is somewhere between fruity and vegetal, and they combine so well with an endless array of other ingredients from avocados, watermelon, tomatoes, melon and strawberries. One of my favourite combinations is cucumber and fresh mint. Once described as “cooler than a couple of contract killers”, all you have to do is add some natural yoghurt, also known for its cooling qualities, and you have a natural form of gastronomic air-conditioning. This simple combination is found all over from Greece, where it is called “Tzatziki”, “Cacik” in Turkey, “Talatouri” in Cyprus all the way down to India where it is known as “Raita”. Feta Cheese and cucumber is also wonderful marriage and one of my favourite summer recipes is a Cucumber, Mint, Feta & Pomegranate salad by Greg Malouf. It’s just the perfect combination and if you want to give it a little kick, add some chopped red chilies to really liven it up!

When you're shopping for cucumbers, look for ones that are firm and free of blemishes and soft spots. Store cucumbers for no more than 1 week. The seedless kinds are great eaten skin and all, but with some other varieties, you may want to peel them first (especially ones with thick skins). If you're making a salad with seeded cucumbers, cut the vegetable lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. This week’s recipe is a refreshingly chilled cucumber soup with yoghurt and fresh dill. It’s the perfect thing for a light lunch on a hot summers day. It’s light, healthy, quick and easy.

Chilled cucumber soup with yoghurt and Dill

Prep time: 25 mins - No cooking time

Ingredients serves 4

2 ½ large cucumbers

2 spring onions, chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

½ a small bunch of coriander, stalks removed

300ml Greek yogurt

25g fresh dill, chopped, plus extra sprigs to serve

2 tbsp crème fraîche or sour cream

Juice of 2 lemons

Seasoning

1. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and throw them away.

2. Slice two of the cucumbers, put them in a colander and sprinkle with a little salt to soften. Leave for 10-15 minutes.

3. Place them in a food processor with the spring onions, garlic, yoghurt, dill and lemon juice. Blend to a fine puree.

4. Season with salt & pepper then chill for at least 2-3 hours. Dice the remaining cucumber to garnish the soup.

5. To serve: divide the chilled soup between 4 soup bowls. Garnish with a spoonful of crème fraiche or sour cream, the diced cucumber and fresh dill. Serve immediately.

LAMB KOFTE KEBABS WITH TZATZIKI

Ingredients Serves 4

Kofte Kebabs

500kg good quality lamb meat (from the leg or shoulder)

1 clove garlic,

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

Related news

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

A generous pinch of hot paprika

6 fresh mint leaves

Salt to taste

TZATZIKI

2 medium cucumbers, grated

150g Natural Greek yoghurt

2tbsp chopped mint

1tbsp chopped coriander

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Seasoning

1. Mix with the cucumbers, yoghurt, garlic and herbs. Season to taste.

2. To make the kofte, Place the lamb with the garlic, mint leaves and spices in the food processor. Blend to form a fine mince.

3. Place in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow the flavours to develop. With wet hands, divide the seasoned mince into 8 equal portions and mould each one around a wooden skewer into a long sausage shape.

4. When ready to cook, heat a griddle or grill to its highest setting. Place the köftes on the griddle or grill and cook for 2–3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown and cooked through.

Marinated Cucumbers with red chili & shallots

1 long cucumber, finely sliced

2 small red chilies, sliced

2 shallots, peeled & finely chopped

1tbsp chopped parsley

1tbsp sugar

2 tbsp sherry vinegar

juice of one lime

6 tbsp olive oil

Freshly ground pepper

Salt

1. Mix together all the ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Season with freshly ground pepper and salt.