COOL AS A CUCUMBER

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Boring and bland? I don’t think so! Cucumbers are one of those special foods that have more uses than just culinary. A quick search turns up really useful things like firming up cellulite on skin, soothing dry, tired eyes, relieving sunburn and curing a hangover. I’m not sure if any of that is really true but what I do know for sure that in the kitchen, the wonderful crunchy texture and the refreshing cleanness of cucumber is a joy to work with, especially in summer 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. Try simply slicing them
very thinly and crumbling a little goats cheese over them with a few parsley leaves, a sprinkling of flor de sal and a drizzle of olive oil for a super quick appetizer. The cucumbers floral perfume and alkaline nature set of the goat’s cheese lactic acid tang to perfection. Feta Cheese and cucumber is also wonderful marriage in a classic Greek salad. 

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 “Tsatsiki”, “Cacik” in Turkey, “Talatouri” in Cyprus all the way down to India where it is known as “Raita”.

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.

LEMON-HERB CRUSTED TURKEY SCHNITZELS
WITH TZATZIKI & SALAD LEAVES


Ingredients   serves 4

500g turkey breast, sliced in 4
35g seasoned plain flour
1 large free-range egg, beaten
2tbsp olive oil
50g butter

Lemon & Herb breadcrumbs

2 slices of stale bread, pre-cut
2 garlic cloves
1tsp salt
1tbsp parsley leaves, chopped
1tbsp sage leaves, chopped
Grated zest of 1 organic lemon
1tspn olive oil

Place the bread in a blender with the salt, lemon zest, herbs and olive oil. Pulse until roughly chopped into breadcrumbs.
Meanwhile, place turkey breast on a board and cover with cling film.
Using a mallet or a rolling pin, lightly bash each fillet to ½ cm thickness.
Prepare egg wash, flour and crumbs in 3 separate trays. Dip each schnitzel in flour and egg, then crumbs, pressing firmly. Place back in fridge before cooking

Heat the olive oil and butter in a wide frying pan. Fry the turkey for 2-3 minutes until brown, then flip over and fry the other side for a further 2-3 minutes.

Serve with lemon wedges, tzatziki & salad leaves.

TZATZIKI

2 medium cucumbers, grated
150g Natural Greek yoghurt
2tbsp chopped mint
1tbsp chopped coriander
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Seasoning

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



CUCUMBER AND MINT RAITA

A cool, fresh chutney that takes seconds to make. Use it as a dip for poppadoms or toasted pitta bread.

Ingredients   serves 4

250ml natural yoghurt
1 cucumber, grated
a large handful of fresh mint leaves
½ a green chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
a large pinch of salt


Wrap the grated cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze out any excess water.
Mix together all the ingredients and serve chilled as an accompaniment to any curry or as a dip for poppadoms.

SESAME & CUCUMBER SALAD

1 cucumber
1tspn chopped ginger
2tspn sesame oil
2 tbsp sweet rice vinegar (Mirin)
2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
Seasoning

Peel and slice the cucumbers. Place the sliced cucumber in a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients. Leave to marinate for 5 minutes & serve.

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