The plot here is currently producing far more cucumbers than our household can keep up with, and we’re known for our love of salads. For the first time ever we’re experiencing a proper cucumber glut, so I’ve been having a think about ways to use up the surplus.
It’s tricky with this ingredient. Their high water content means that they’re best used up good and fresh, although fortunately they can be stored for quite a few days in the fridge and they tend to stay in good condition.
Here’s how we’ve been using them up:
The main solution has been to throw the cucumbers into as many salads as possible. For example:
· Dill and cucumber salad – simply thinly sliced rounds of cucumber, some fresh herbs and a light dressing (perfect with flageolet or haricot bean dishes, or salmon)
· Greek salad – chunks of cucumber with added tomato, red onion, optional lettuce, black olives, feta cheese, red wine vinegar, olive oil and dried oregano and thyme (just add country bread)
· Ploughman’s lunch – cut chunks of cucumber on the diagonal, serve with sliced tomato, pickle, cheese, bread and butter etc with optional ham or pork pie slice
· Oriental style salads – shredded and mixed with carrots, beansprouts, spring onions, peanuts etc, dressed with rice vinegar and perhaps a little chilli or fish sauce
There’s also this site’s recipe for beetroot and dill salad, which needs half a cucumber. Every little helps.
Cucumber sauces and dips
My two favourites are:
· Cucumber raita – at its most simple this is just grated or finely diced peeled and de-seeded cucumber, left to strain a little to remove excess liquid then mixed with thick plain yoghurt, chopped mint, salt and a pinch of sugar. Great with spicy and aromatic foods such as vegetable curries, and a handy way to add protein to the plate, and also good as a starter with poppadoms and chutney. You can make it more interesting by adding some chopped coriander, a little finely shredded green chilli or a few toasted cumin seeds.
· Tzatziki – once again the cucumber’s peeled, deseeded, and grated or finely diced and drained, then mixed with plain Greek yoghurt, mint, a little crushed garlic, salt and pepper and a few optional drops of olive oil or lemon juice. Great as a snack with veg sticks, as a starter with flatbread or pittas, part of a meze table, or as an accompaniment to grilled veggies, meat or fish.
A simple raita can sneakily be turned into a tzatzki the next day by adding some garlic, if you have leftovers.
Other food ideas
· Cucumber sandwiches – a bit of a ‘too English to be true’ joke, but actually quite nice with a good pot of tea and a cake or scone alongside. The trick is to weight the cucumber slices for a while to draw off some of the water, before making the dainty little sandwiches.
· Chinese-style hot dishes – cut into batons and add to stir fries near the end of cooking, or peel and cut into long strips as part of the traditional accompaniment to crispy duck pancakes along with shredded spring onion and plum sauce.
· Dill pickles – you can’t really add cucumbers to chutneys because they turn mushy, but they can sometimes be pickled. Ideally these should be small whole cucumbers or at least cut into large chunks, to help keep their shape and achieve the best texture.
You can also use cucumbers up in drinks. Add diagonal slices to water to make something ordinary more interesting, and maybe mix in some slices of lime, lemon or orange too, or add some sprigs of mint. It can also be added to juices and smoothies, but my favourite has to be a good cucumber martini.
Failing that, put a couple of thick slices over your eyes and have a nice lie down for a few minutes. Garden spa stylee.
Your neighbours and friends might also take a few extra crops off your hands. It’s worth checking with your local food bank too, to find out whether they accept fresh produce.
Do you have any other favourite dishes to use up a glut of cucumbers? Any new recipes welcome!