Did you know the cucumber originates from Southern Asia, but now grows on most continents? Many different varieties are traded on the global market.
The cucumber (cucumis sativus) is one of the most important market vegetables in the tropics and it is also the basis of an extensive pickling industry. In Sri Lanka, cucumbers are mainly grown in the dry zone (North and East of the country). They are abundant and come in different varieties as you can see in the bottom left-hand side of this market stall:
Cucumbers have not received as much press as other vegetables in terms of health benefits, but this widely-cultivated food provides us with a unique combination of nutrients. At the top of the phytonutrient list for cucumbers are its cucurbitacins, lignans, and flavonoids. These three types of phytonutrients found in cucumbers provide us with valuable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer benefits.
I know the concept of a cucumber curry sounds weird but trust me it’s delicious. Most varieties of cucumber can be used but I would recommend a variety with few seeds. Most Sri Lankan varieties do not have a lot of seeds so for this recipe I am using the common very pale green cucumber. Kekiri cucumber (aka cooking melon) can also be used.
Peel 2 local cucumbers and seed them.
Then slice the cumber into half moons
Gently fry the following spices:
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 green chili seeded and chopped
- 10-12 curry leaves
- 1/4 tsp of turmeric
- 1/4 tsp chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp of fenugreek seeds
- 1/2 cup of water
- Salt to taste
In a large pan add all the above ingredients and allow to cook on medium-high heat. Cook until the cucumbers become fork tender (but not mushy).
Then blend together:
5 cloves of garlic
2 tbs of raw rice (rinsed)
1 tbs of mustard seed
1/2 cup of coconut milk
Add the garlic/mustard paste and the milk into the cucumber curry. Stir well and allow the curry to cook for another few minutes until all the flavors are combined well.
Feeling hot this weekend? Fancy a refreshing drink with a kick to cool you down? Then I have just the thing.
A cool cucumber cocktail!
This refreshing update on the classic gin & tonic is an easy sipper, thanks to summery cucumber slices and plenty of lime juice. A note on the cucumber slices: it may be tempting to nibble them out of your drink right away, but try to resist the urge. After several minutes’ contact with the lime juice, gin, and sweet tonic water (about as long as it takes to finish the drink) they pickle ever so slightly, taking on a lovely crisp flavor.
Makes 4 drinks:
- 8 oz gin
- 8 tbs fresh lime juice (or more depending on your taste)
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced cucumber (scrubbed but not peeled)
- Tonic water
- Some thicker cucumber slices and rosemary, for garnish
Fill four glasses halfway with ice. In a cocktail shaker, combine gin, lime juice, cucumber slices, and a small amount of ice. Shake vigorously for 1-2 minutes, and pour into ice-filled glasses, making sure cucumber slices are evenly distributed. Top with tonic water; garnish with a slice of cucumber and a sprig of rosemary.