Cook’s notes – cool cucumbers

The humble cucumber is often regarded as just another minor ingredient to salad but nothing could be further from the truth!    Yet another of these natural foods that are packed full of healthy nutrients, the cucumber’s greatest strength is its concentration of – WATER!    Cucumbers are 96% water – which seems a lot – but it is special because it is hidden water, disguised by the delicious flavour of the cucumber.    And water is seriously important for health. Your body weight is actually 72% water, reducing as we age!   When you lose water, and become dehydrated, you become a little irritable (really??), and concentration is lost.

Cucumbers: floral and fresh.

Cucumbers: floral and fresh.

And no matter how much you concentrate on drinking water, you really never have enough.  So the hidden water in delicious foods such as cucumbers is a really serious answer to the problem.  You are taking in water without drinking!

Of course cucumbers are much more important than just a source of water. The cucumber is actually a fruit (!!), not a vegetable, in the same family as squash, zucchini, and pumpkin! Packed full of Vitamin K  (for blood clotting and healthy bones) and essential antioxidants to prevent heart disease, this is really a wonderful food.

There are basically two types of cucumber, depending on how they are prepared, either fresh for slicing, or pickled, such as gherkins.   This article is just about the slicing type, of which there are many varieties, all equally delicious: English, Armenian, Japanese, Persian and Lebanese.

Normally wrapped in plastic on the supermarket shelves – so not the most appetizing presentation, but well worth including in your summer recipe repertoire.

Cutting cucumbers - nails on point!

Cutting cucumbers – knife skills and nails on point.

Cucumber preparation

There are many options of preparing cucumbers; this is one particular method which is deal to use in a variety of salsa recipes.

Slice the cucumber into very thin slices then arrange individually in a bowl and sprinkle with sea salt.   Leave for at least several minutes, then rinse and pat dry.

Cucumber, Mozzarella and Beetroot stack
 
Delicious and nutritious, this recipe is ideal to serve as an individual starter and well worth the effort for the finished preparation.
Author:
Recipe type: Starter
Cuisine: European
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 medium smooth English cucumber
  • 1 ball of good quality Mozzarella
  • Slices of beetroot (fresh or in vinegar)
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • Sea Salt
  • Good quality mayonnaise or homemade
Instructions
  1. Wash and peel cucumber using vegetable peeler. Slice into reasonably thick rounds.
  2. Drain mozzarella and slice into thick rounds.
  3. Fresh beetroot cut into thick rounds or (if using) vinegar beetroot slices rinse under cold water then drain and pat dry.
  4. Place alternative layers of beetroot, cucumber slices and Mozzarella to create a neat stack.
  5. Season with black pepper and sea salt and serve with a good swirl of mayonnaise.

 

 

Cucumber and Strawberry Salad (with Chilli Balsamic dressing)
 
The combination of using strawberries and cucumber in a salad can seem quite odd – however the addition of chilli balsamic vinegar enriches the flavor to a tangy delight. This salad is ideal served as a refreshing starter or a side dish with grilled fish, chicken or kebabs.
Author:
Recipe type: Salad
Cuisine: European
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 large smooth-skinned English cucumber
  • 250g strawberries
  • 1 tsp clear honey
  • 1 tbps Chilli Balsamic dressing
  • 2 tsp (good quality) extra virgin olive oil
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • Sea salt
  • Sprigs of fresh basil
Instructions
  1. Remove skin from cucumber (using vegetable peeler). Carefully shave thin slices of cucumber.
  2. Wash and de-hull strawberries and slice into quarters.
  3. Place cucumber and strawberries in a medium sized bowl
  4. Combine the honey, chilli balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper – whisk gently or place all ingredients in a screw top jar and shake well. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.
  5. Drizzle the dressing over the strawberries and cucumber. Mix gently, then transfer to the fridge and leave to chill for a few minutes.
  6. Serve immediately, decorated with sprigs of basil.

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