Four recipes to make the humble cucumber rather more interesting

Cucumber is fresh and delicious, but it's difficult to use it in a dish that really zips off the plate.

So as the time comes when the first cucumbers begin to appear in British gardens, our kitchen garden cook Melanie Johnson comes to the rescue. She’s provided this set of recipes that make the most of a a vegetable that brings what she describes as the ‘delicious, fresh flavours of spring’.  Enjoy.

Recipe: Asian duck salad with cucumber and hoisin sauce

Ingredients

  • Half an aromatic crispy duck
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 carrot
  • 5 spring onions
  • 100g mixed salad leaves
  • 20g black sesame seeds, toasted
  • 75g pomegranate seeds
  • 100g unsalted cashews, toasted
  • A bunch of coriander (substitute parsley if coriander isn’t to your taste)

For the hoisin dressing

  • 50ml hoisin
  • 75ml mirin
  • 75ml soy sauce
  • 25ml vegetable oil
  • 1tspn sesame oil
  • 50g honey
  • A squeeze of lime
  • 1tspn chilli flakes
  • 1tspn grated ginger
  • 1tspn cornflour mixed into a splash of cold water

Method

Preheat your oven to 220˚C/425˚F/gas mark 7. Remove all the packaging and place the duck on a baking sheet, then roast it for 40 minutes, when it should be cooked through and crispy. Remove from the oven and use two forks, pulling in opposite directions, to shred the meat. Place it in a large bowl.

Asian duck salad with cucumbers and hoisin dressing.

While the duck is cooking, prepare the dressing. Pour the hoisin, mirin and soy into a small pan and heat through. Add the vegetable oil, sesame oil, honey, lime, chilli flakes and grated ginger and bring to a gentle simmer. As the liquid warms, mix the cornflour with the water before pouring it into the saucepan. Heat gently, stirring until the sauce has thickened. Remove from the heat and pour into a jug. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Top and tail the cucumber and then cut it in half widthways. Use a vegetable peeler to create wide thin strips of cucumber and add them to the duck. Peel the carrot into long curls and add these to the duck and cucumber. Slice the spring onions diagonally, using both the white and green parts, and add them to the salad, together with the salad leaves, sesame seeds, pomegranate seeds and cashews.

Pour the dressing over the salad, a little at a time to get the right amount, and then toss it very well to combine the flavours. Serve immediately with fresh coriander (or parsley) scattered over the top.

Recipe: Chilled cucumber soup

Gently fry a small onion in butter until softened. Add two peeled, cored and chopped cucumbers and cook for a few minutes to combine the flavours. Pour in enough vegetable stock to cover and simmer gently for about five minutes.

Tip into a blender with a couple of tablespoons of chopped chives, a squeeze of lemon, seasoning and 100ml natural yoghurt. Process and then stir in 30ml double cream.

Serve chilled with slices of cucumber on top and scattered with chopped parsley. You can also try it with flaked salmon.

cucumber soup

Recipe: Cucumber, fennel and apple salad

Peel and core one cucumber and two apples before cutting them into slim pieces. Now, chop one bulb of fennel into roughly the same-sized pieces. Tip everything into a serving bowl and toss with a few dollops of Greek yoghurt, a squeeze of lemon and seasoning. Stir chopped dill through it and serve.

Recipe: Hummus-and-cucumber bagels

Toast seeded bagel halves and spread one half with hummus and the other with beetroot hummus. Arrange slices of cucumber, fresh basil leaves, radish slices and healthy sprouting beans over the top and drizzle with olive oil and apple-cider vinegar.

Hummus and cucumber bagels. Pic: Melanie Johnson.