At Xmas the fridge fills with all things wonderful, the exotic and the common. And then I spend the next weeks slowly working through the food left in the fridge after cooking a xmas meal for the family.
This morning I am working with some pre-cooked white peas and cucumbers. The white peas were turned into a wonderful curry – North Indian in style with (seemingly) a million spices and a tomato-y gravy.
It needed something light and airy to go with it, something to lift the “groundedness” of it, to bring a little tang and bite, to cut through the deliciousness but heaviness of that sauce.
Often in India a small bowl with pieces of raw onion, cucumber, maybe tomato, will be served with a curry for this same reason. The juxtaposition of the two types of tastes is amazing. But I opted for a cucumber salad that is almost pickled, and one which has the same bang and bite as the traditional accompaniments in India. Maybe more so as it also has some raw garlic!
This is from Plenty, one of Ottoneghi’s books. Even he says, in the introduction to this recipe, that it goes well with hearty dishes – anything that takes a long time to cook (eg some lentil dishes like Dal Makhani), has a lot of heat, is slightly greasy, or just seems heavy. It is a great alternative to smothering such dishes in yoghurt in an attempt to lighten them.
Smashed Garlic and Ginger Cucumber Salad
Source: Adapted from Plenty, by Yotham Ottolenghi
Prep Time: 15 mins plus 1 hour for the onion in vinegar
Cooking Time: 0 mins max
Serves: 2-6 depending how you use it
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
15g fresh root ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tsp Maldon sea salt
2 large garlic cloves, peeled
4 small (or 8 mini or 1 long) cucumbers (about 600g in total), peeled
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
3 tbsp chopped green coriander leaves
3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp castor sugar
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
To make the dressing, whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Add the sliced red onion, mix well and leave aside to marinate for about an hour.
Place the ginger and salt in a mortar and pound well with a pestle. Add the garlic and continue pounding until it is also well crushed and broken into pieces (stop pounding before it disintegrates into a paste). Use a spatula to scrape the contents of the mortar into the bowl with the onion and dressing. Stir together.
Cut the cucumbers lengthways in half, then cut each half on an angle into 1/4″ thick slices. Add the cucumber to the bowl, followed by the sesame seeds, and green coriander leaves. Stir well and leave to sit for about 10 minutes.
Before serving, stir the salad again, tip out some of the liquid that has accumulated at the bottom of the bowl and adjust the seasoning.
When I made this I was out of rice wine vinegar and I don’t normally keep sunflower oil. In place of rice wine vinegar I used a mixture of verjuice and organic white vinegar. For the oil I used a mix of grapeseed oil and walnut oil. Both substitutes worked very well.
I used a mixture of white and black sesame seeds.