Marinated cucumbers (v)
I am back in Tuscany, getting reacquainted with flavours that took a backseat during the winter months. Eating here feels like waking up from some kind of hibernation, remembering forgotten pleasures and rediscovering favourite dishes as though greeting old friends. None of the artisan tomatoes bought from London farmers markets at the height of summer tasted as richly delicious as their sun-drenched cousins do, grown in my host’s garden. We feast on them each morning, sprinkled with a little red wine vinegar, torn basil leaves and a splash of fruity olive oil. Yesterday there was also creamy sheep’s milk ricotta from the dairy. Sitting in the sunshine listening to cicadas I felt as though I’d never want to eat anything else.
Today we are celebrating a glut of cucumbers. Ours have tough, thick skins and sharp, stubby spikes so peeling them is essential. You might decide not to peel yours if there is no need.
Serves four as part of a larger lunch
3 cucumbers, peeled and sliced into ½cm
1 onion, peeled and sliced into similar sized rings
1 tsp sea salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 small clove garlic, crushed
White wine vinegar
Small bunch basil
Small bunch mint
Extra virgin olive oil
What to do
Put the cucumber slices and onion rings in a large bowl. Add the salt and sugar and toss together. Taste a piece of cucumber – it should taste a little too salty. Stir in the garlic and then pour over enough white wine vinegar to just about cover the cucumber. The salt will draw moisture out of the cucumbers and together with the vinegar this will be your marinade.
Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.
Just before serving, tear up the basil and mint leaves and scatter over. Add a good splash of olive oil, some ground black pepper and toss gently.
The cucumbers are lovely on their own, or a refreshing accompaniment to say, a slice of cold roast pork. Or add them to chopped up tomatoes and cubes of stale bread for a more substantial panzanella-style salad.