This week I'll be handling what really should be called a fruit - Cucumbers!
By definition Cucumbers are fruit because their seeds are on the inside and when you start thinking about it, there's quite a lot of vegetables that are really fruit.
The main nutrient a cucumber offers is water - it's that refreshing characteristic that makes it very popular in summer. It also has Vitamin A, B6, C and K along with Copper, dietary Fibre, Folate, Magnesium, Manganese, Pantothenic Acid, Phosphorus, Potassium and Thiamine.
I'll be using cucumbers to make a recipe from one of my favourite local chefs, George Calombaris. A dish that you can enjoy at his restaurant The Press Club and now thanks to a great feature in the recent Gourmet Traveller I can make it at home!
George has a reputation of putting a unique spin on classic dishes and this Saganaki Martini is a perfect example of that.
In this martini, Gin in used as an accent to a herb flavoured tomato broth - Olives present themselves in the form of Candied Olives. Now you might be wondering about candied olives but all I can say is you should have an open mind and give them a go. The saganaki is presented as a skewer of grilled haloumi - served with the martini, it contains all the classical Greek elements but in a stunningly unique experience.
10 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove
5 leaves basil
5 leaves mint
Gin, to taste
100 grams Kalamata olives, pits removed, finely chopped
50 grams caster sugar
2 Roma tomatoes, peeled and seeded, diced very finely
1 cucumber, peeled and seeded, diced very finely
1/2 bunch chives, finely chopped
200 grams haloumi, cut into 1cm cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil
Make the Martini:
Place the tomatoes, garlic, basil and mint in a blender and process until smooth. Strain using a fine sieve - don't press on the mixture, let it happen naturally. It will take a few hours to give you the required 500mls/2 cups of liquid.
Throw away the remaining solids and then add Gin to taste. Place this in the fridge to chill until ready to serve.
Make the Candied Olives:
Preheat the oven to 60°C.
Place the finely chopped olives on a baking paper lined tray and sprinkle with the caster sugar. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the olives are dried.
Prepare the Haloumi:
Slice the cheese into 1cm cubes and dust with a little flour. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the cheese over a medium heat - browning all sides. When cooked thread onto skewers.
Assemble the dish:
Divide the diced Roma tomatoes, cucumber, candied olives and chives amongst four martini glasses, then pour over with the chilled martini mixture. Add the haloumi skewers and serve immediately.
I hope you'll agree, it's a wonderful way to begin a meal.