Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Cucumber gel. What?

Cucumber gel with glazed salmon on marinated courgette ribbons and garnished with red amaranth

Let's get the confession done early doors shall we?

I don't like cucumber in its natural firm form. I've always winced at the green tubes of vegetable slime, sliced or diced, especially with tuna. insipid and slippery stuff; like licking a sea cave wall.

However, juice the thing, season it, add a little apple for piquancy and acidity and you have a light, flavoursome sauce that's just perfect with fish, especially oily fish (as not pictured above. That's glazed salmon).

Saucing fish is a tricky business. Something as fragile a flavour as cod or sole needs respect and a tentative touch. I'm not a fan of piling on heavy cream or herby butter based concoctions And Tomato? Olives? Nooooo.

And I realise that it's winter and cucumber is the quintessential summer veg (technically it's a fruit of course. Of course), normally seen in delicate, decrusted bread triangles; nibbled with pinkie poised. But as I explained in an earlier blog, I'm rubbish at timing.

So much for the bantz. Shall we get on with the recipe?

Oh. No. One thing. A warning. The recipe uses a couple of unusual ingredients: agar agar and xanthan gum; normally found in the 'home baking' aisle where only the freaks and vegans huddle. Be careful with the xanthan gum. It's a very useful emulsifier and thickener often used in gluten free baking to add structure. BUT It is the very WORST thing to drop on your floor. Guess who did? All over. You will find any moisture turns your tiles into a slime rink. I had to scrub my floor eight times. Oh, it was hilarious.


Cucumber Gel.
Makes enough for 8 people as a main meal.
This is based on Stephen Smith's recipe.
You'll need a juicer. You could try blending the cucumbers and then fine sieving through muslin though.

In a small pan reduce 200ml of (not from concentrate) apple juice to a sticky syrup with a pinch of salt and two of sugar. Keep an eye on it. Don't let it burn.

Juice one and a half cucumbers. Add a quarter of the juice to the apple syrup in the pan along with 4g, just over half a packet, of agar agar - often sold as 'vege gel' or 'vegetarian gelatine'. Whisk in and bring to the boil. Simmer for no more than a minute. Set aside to cool and set. It may look very strange when cool. My first one did. Don't worry.
In the remaining juice, add a quarter teaspoon of xantham gum and whisk in. Add this to the agar agar/apple/cuc mix and blend until smooth. Put in the fridge to firm up. Remember this is a gel not a jelly. It should be pourable but not runny. If it blobs, whisk in a little water or (better) some more cucumber juice.


Not to worry
The reason it's done in two stages is because the cucumber juice discolours when heated with the agar agar. Adding the unboiled juice maintains a rich, fresh, grassy green. Boil the whole lot and although it'll taste the same, it looks murky and unattractive. Trust me. That was my second attempt after thinking, this is quite a palaver, why don't I just...

This works well as a sauce with all kinds of fish but also as a side salad with cheese. Mix it with more diced cucumber, diced apple, a little finely cut mint and some rape seed oil. The colour is fantastic.




2 comments :

  1. How long will it keep Jason? Is it stable? Sounds terrific.

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  2. Completely stable. Keeps for a week in a sealed container. May keep longer but I’ve not tried.

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