CRISPY CUCAMELONS RECALL CULINARY ADVENTURES IN GREECE FOR CHEF ALASTAIR MCLEOD
WORDS: ALASTAIR MCLEOD STYLING AND PHOTO: MIRANDA PORTER
In Athens last year, I reacquainted myself with old friends – horiatiki, tzatziki, and saganaki to name a few. I just love the bright, confident, lusty food culture that defines the Greeks. I reckon I ate tzatziki every day for three weeks, so once home, I made a briam and a spanakopita, and that was my Hellenic culinary itch scratched. A few weeks ago, Jacki Hinchey from Blue Dog Farm at Mt Mee dropped me a pail of her fabulous cucamelons, or Mexican cucumbers. Their crisp, fleshy, er, cucumberiness led me back to Greece with a digression on the classic mezze, tzatziki.
CUCUMBER SALAD, LABNEH, MINT Serves: 4 INGREDIENTS
250ml Greek yoghurt 1 Lebanese cucumber, juiced 20 cucamelons Sea salt, sugar and freshly milled pepper 8 mini cucumbers 1¼ bunches mint, leaves picked 100ml grapeseed oil 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped ¼ bunch dill Lemon juice
Line a small colander or sieve with a damp Chux cloth and set over a small bowl. Add yoghurt, fold over Chux and refrigerate for an hour to drain. Next, pour the juiced cucumber over the cucamelons with a generous pinch of salt and sugar, and a few twists of pepper. Halve the mini cucumbers lengthways and also season with salt, sugar and pepper. Leave them to cure for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, to prepare mint oil, blanch the leaves of 1 bunch of mint in boiling water for 20 seconds then immediately remove and place in iced water to arrest the cooking. Remove from the water and squeeze firmly. Place in an upright blender with the grapeseed oil and blitz until smooth. Set aside for one hour to infuse, pass through a fine sieve, add garlic and chill. Finely chop remaining mint and dill together and place on a baking tray. Drain mini cucumbers, pat dry, toss in a little mint oil and roll in the chopped herbs. Remove cucamelons from juice and add lemon juice to taste. When ready to serve, transfer drained yoghurt to a bowl and season. Arrange the cucumbers and cucamelons on top. Drizzle with the cucumber juice and the mint oil.