Cucumber and Chilli Salad

Cucumber & Chilli Salad

I’m generally pretty rubbish when it comes to things horticultural, particularly if they’re vegetables. Flowers I’m actually reasonable at. Vegetables – horrendous. So it’s come as something of a shock to harvest four telegraph cucumbers in the space of 2 days.

This set me to start investigating cucumber recipes … and cucumber and chilli salad seemed a super easy place to start.

Of course, I didn’t rush off an buy Lebanese cucumbers, I made use of what I had. I used approximately half one of my cucumbers and I halved the remainder of the ingredients. I opted to use fresh chilli instead of chilli flakes too – I think it made the finished product just that bit more colourful.

Begin by halving and then finely slicing your cucumber(s) of choice. I used a mandoline because that way you know your slices will be even and actually fine!

Place the sliced cucumber in a bowl and add 1 clove of garlic, crushed and finely chopped, half a finely chopped red chilli, 1 tsp of caster sugar, 1 tbsp of vinegar (I used white wine vinegar) and 1 tsp of sesame oil. Give it all a good mix together to help the caster sugar dissolve and to ensure the cucumber is well coated.

Set the salad aside for at least an hour. This is one of those great salads that doesn’t wilt if you leave it – so next time you need to take a salad to a BBQ it’s worth considering. If you want to make it well in advance, cover in cling film and pop it in the fridge until about half an hour before you need it.

As this is a cucumber salad, make sure you have to salt to hand!

We ate this sald with our favourite quick and easy mid week dinner, a spicy chicken stir fry.

Lemon Chilli Chicken with Couscous Salad

lemon chilli chicken with couscous salad

Well, the lemon chilli chicken part of this is really pretty straightforward. What is interesting is the couscous salad. At the risk of sounding like a broken record – I’m quite into salads and during summer we eat quite a lot of couscous. But mixing through the same lot of vegetables can get a little uninspiring.

This recipe comes from Gordon Ramsay’s Makes It Easy. It’s actually the first thing I’ve cooked from this book. Some of the recipes seem somewhat uninspired (roast pork sandwich? really?) but this recipe proves that there’s at least one gem.

The lemon and chilli chicken part is facile. The recipe is for chicken wings on the BBQ. I opted for chicken thighs, pan fried (and boy, did that end up with chicken and fat spitting all over the kitchen …). Simply take your favourite cut of chicken and marinate in olive oil, lemon juice and finely sliced chilli for a couple of hours. Cook in your favourite way.

For enough couscous for two, with a little left over, you need to start by roasting a red and a green capsicum and a few cloves of garlic. Heat the oven to 200°C fan and toss the capsicums and unpeeled garlic cloves with a little olive oil. Place the vegetables on baking tray and cook, turning the capsicums every now and then, for about 20 minutes. The skin will start to blister and you want it blistered all over the capsicums so you can peel them easily.

While the capsicums are cooking, measure out 100g of couscous into your serving bowl and add 100mL of boiling water. Stir the water through with a fork and then cover the couscous for about 15 minutes, fluffing up the couscous every now and then.

When the capsicums are done, allow them to cool then peel, remove the seeds and chop coarsely. Add to the couscous. Squeeze the roasted garlic in too: cut the blunt end off the cloves and just squeeze out the centre. Mix through ½ tsp of ground cumin and a good squeeze of lemon juice and a generous glug or two of extra virgin olive oil (use the cheaper light olive oil for the marinade, but don’t skimp here!). Finish with a roughly chopped a tomato (or use cherry tomatoes, for a prettier look) and a big handful of chopped coriander.

Absolutely delicious!

Asian Beef Salad


Another foray into the magazine archives and something I was quite excited to come across.

This time, it’s the July 2001 issue of Food and Travel. The Swift Suppers section features recipes from Vatch’s Southeast Asian Salads: 6 salads from all over south east Asia.

I needed to work with what I knew to be readily available so I ended up combining two of the recipes: the Vietnamese grilled beef salad and a Burmese salad, thoke. Now, a quick google of thoke will bring up lots of recipes that are all completely different from what follows. What I liked about this salad was that it was different. Here in Adelaide we’re fast approaching BBQ season and mostly the repertoire of salads is pretty limited, so I like to keep an eye out for recipes that are quick to put together but that also represent a departure from a bit of lettuce, cucumber and tomato.

Let’s begin with the beef. Make a marinade by whisking together 5 tbsp of lime juice, 4 tbsp of fish sauce and 2 tbsp of sugar. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved. For a change, I actually followed these proportions because I do appreciate that in this type of food getting the salty/sweet/sour/hot balance correct is important! Once the sugar is dissolved stir in two young lemon grass stalks, very finely sliced and some finely sliced chilli. I used one small fataali chilli. As this marinade won’t be cooked, don’t be tempted to substitute chilli flakes – fresh will be much better.

Leave the marinade to stand until you need it.

When you’re ready to eat, take a piece of rump steak (approximately 500g) and cook it on a hot grill (or BBQ, or just in a hot pan) for only a minute or two on each side. You want plenty of colour on the meat but typically you want the meat nice and rare. (If you really can’t stand that idea, cook the meat to your liking). When the meat is cooked, remove from the pan, slice thinly and toss through the marinade, ensuring it’s well coated.

Leave the meat in its marinade for at least 30 minutes.

Traditionally, the meat would be served up on a salad of beansprouts, basil, mint and salad leaves. However, I knew I wouldn’t be able to track down the requisite quantities of basil and mint so I ended up tossing the meat (and marinade) through some vermicelli noodles. Tasty, but somewhat anaemic looking! Next time I’ll make the effort to put together the appropriate salad.

The thoke was easy to make: finely slice some white cabbage and cut some carrot and cucumber into fine matchsticks. Mix them together in a bowl and toss through some beansprouts.

Heat a little oil in a fry pan and fry a couple of thinly sliced garlic cloves until crisp (keep an eye on them – you want them golden but not burnt!). Drain the garlic and add to your vegetables. Finely slice half an onion and fry in the same oil until crisp, then add to the vegetables.

Sprinkle the salad with 1/2 tsp of turmeric, some chilli powder (to taste), a little salt and a very generous squeeze (or two) of lime juice. Toss everything together (you want that chilli powder to be evenly distributed) and serve.

This was really delicious – incredibly easy to make, and very fresh, crunchy and (dare I say it?) healthy. Next time you’re asked to bring a salad, give thoke a go!