Chief Correspondent’s Preferred Cucumber Salad
“The last thing I bought and loved was cucumbers. There was one variety I’d never had before, a Chinese yellow – much larger than a regular cucumber, with rough skin – so I was excited about that. I ate it raw but I see that it’s often added to soups. I go to Union Square Greenmarket and there are a few vegetable stalls that I really like: one is called Norwich Meadows Farm, from here in New York State, another is Bodhitree Farm from New Jersey.”Laila Gohar, interview by Victoria Woodcock in The Financial Times
We have the simplest Christmas imaginable, no turkey, no plum pudding. The secret to a Happy Christmas is simplicity, and the way to get away with it is to buy quality.
So lunch is always smoked salmon. It used to come from Frank Hederman in Ireland – world famous for his salmon – lauded in The New York Times by Johnny Apple who commented, “Mr Hederman smokes fish, which is a little like saying Steinway makes pianos”. But over the years we’ve experimented, and now we buy from the less well known, but better quality J W Fine Foods.
The same thing has happened with the cucumber salad that goes with it. Experimentation has led to improvements. We used to have a lightly pickled cucumber salad, inspired by a recipe from Heston Blumenthal no less. But one Christmas I forgot to do the pickling in time.
Instead I made a different cucumber salad, requiring no time at all really. And the Chief Correspondent pronounced it better…. to a chorus assenting voices who babbled and gurgled enthusiastically, “hear, hear!”. Here is the winning recipe. Of course the better quality the cucumber, the better tasting the salad will be. If I can lay my hands on some knobbly Lebanese cucumbers (or a big Chinese yellow, like Laila Gohar in the quote above) I am over the moon.
Serve it with the best smoked salmon you can find, and, ideally, some freshly made soda bread.
Recipe for Chief Correspondent’s Preferred Cucumber Salad
- 1 large cucumber (or 2 small ones)
- a handful of dill
- 2 tbsps of capers (you can serve these separately if any of your guests don’t like capers – quite a lot of people don’t)
- salt for extracting the excess water from the cucumber
- a pinch of Urfa pepper flakes
- 1 tbsp white balsamic condiment – optional
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- 180 ml/¾ cup thick Greek yoghurt
- Slice the cucumber, and put it in a large colander. VERY lightly sprinkle with fine cooking salt (you may need to do this in two layers). Put it in the sink, and leave for about twenty minutes.
- Meanwhile mix the rest of the ingredients to make a dressing, retaining a few sprigs of dill for garnish.
- Use some kitchen towel to dab at the cucumber to remove the excess water (and the salt with it).
- Dress the cucumber, and serve.