It is the time of year for cucumbers – crisp, watery and clean they are lovely either in salads or gently cooked so they retain a slight bite and vibrant colour. My personal preference is the smaller variety, for they tend to be sweeter. Look, too, for cucumbers that are free of any bruises or blemishes and that are heavy for their size. Many herbs sit happily alongside cucumbers, including mint, basil, dill and parsley.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com
A summery soup for those sultry days, this is punchy, sharp and exciting to eat, an explosion of sunshine in your mouth; I prefer it textured rather than smooth. This soup needs to be served well chilled.
100g/3 oz toasted almonds
1 fresh red chilli, sliced lengthways, seeds removed
1 red onion, sliced
2 red peppers
4 small cucumbers, skin left on and chopped
1kg/2lb tomatoes, chopped
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
A good pinch of sea salt
100ml/3 fl oz olive oil
200ml/7fl oz tomato juice
Generous handfuls of basil and mint leaves
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Put the almonds, chilli, red onion, garlic, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes and sherry vinegar into a blender and pulse. Add sea salt, which turns up the volume of the flavours, and some olive oil. Add half the tomato juice to loosen the gazpacho and blend, then add liberal amounts of basil and mint, more tomato juice and pulse one more time. Purée until it's still textural and chunky. Serve chilled.
Cucumbers with roasted tomatoes
Although it may sound a little strange, cucumbers that are gently cooked have a delicate taste that is very appealing. This is good with poached fish at this time of year – salmon in particular – though often we serve it in the restaurant with slow-cooked rabbit.
4 small cucumbers
1 tbsp mild-tasting olive oil
12 small ripe tomatoes
250ml/8fl oz verjus or slightly sweet white wine
20g/¾oz unsalted butter
A dozen black olives
Sea salt and a little freshly ground black pepper
Slice the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, cut into half-inch slices and set aside. Place a medium-based heavy pan over a gentle flame and add the olive oil. Once warm, add the tomatoes and cook, stirring now and then until the tomatoes have begun to soften. Now add the verjus or wine and turn up the heat slightly. Allow all the liquid to reduce by a third then add the cucumbers, knob of butter, olives and salt and pepper, cook for a minute then remove from the stove and serve.
Pickled cucumber salad
This very clean and sharp salad is perfect for this time of year. It is good with poached salmon or even slightly oily fish such as mackerel or sardines. It is better to make a couple of hours ahead of time so that the cucumbers can steep in the dressing.
5 small cucumbers
¾ tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp white-wine vinegar
1 bunch of dill, leaves only, finely chopped
A good pinch of sea salt
A handful of pea shoots
Rinse the cucumbers and pat dry. Using a vegetable peeler slice the cucumber lengthwise so that you have long, fine slices. Place in a colander and weigh down using a heavy plate – this will help remove most of the water that seeps from the cucumber. Put the sugar and vinegar in a bowl, add the dill and salt and stir well to combine.
After 20 minutes or so, remove the plate from the cucumbers and gently squeeze out any excess water. Place the cucumbers in the bowl and toss well together so that the cucumbers are very well dressed. Place in the fridge until you are ready to use. Toss the pea shoots through just before serving.