My parents have always been keen gardeners, especially growing their own produce. Most years, this simply meant that it was courgettes, seven nights a week, all summer long, with raspberries for dessert. Home grown produce was always on the table in the summer but my favourite things were the cucumbers, cooling and sweet and usually the perfect vehicle for transporting dips to the mouth. If I can ever afford a house with enough of a garden to do it, growing a bit of fruit and veg is something a I’d like to take up too and a cucumber plant would be one of the first things to put in the ground.
British grown cucumbers are coming into the shops now, just as the weather begins to make it feel a little more like summer. The crisp and refreshing cucumber is ideal for a hot day and this Korean-style salad is no exception. Old Korean wisdoms suggest that spicy food is the best countermeasure to the hot and humid summers so spicy soups and stews are traditionally on offer, with seasonal vegetables on the side, refreshing cucumber included either raw in a salad or pickled and made into kimchi. The recipe comes from Growing up in a Korean Kitchen by Hi Soo Shin Hepinstall, a traditional book complete with the large portion sizes necessary to feed the extended family! I’ve scaled it down and made a couple of changes (most notably swapping the raw garlic for extra spring onions). Don’t be alarmed by how much liquid there is though: really, it’s a dish halfway between a European salad and a pickle and is best made a day or so in advance to allow the cucumber to soak up the flavours of the dressing.
Trip the ends from the cucumber, and cut into round slices that are as thin as you can get them. Toss the cucumber slices with the salt and set aside in a sieve or colander set over a bowl for 20 minutes.
To make the dressing, combine all the remaining ingredients together and ensure the sugar is all dissolved. Taste and add little more sugar if too sharp , or more vinegar if too sweet: don’t add salt however, as the cucumber has been well salted.
Squeeze out any additional liquid in the cucumbers, discarding the juice which was drawn out of them. Don’t worry about breaking them too much. Mix the cucumber slices and the dressing and chill in the fridge until serving. It’s best cold. Serves 4.