May 19th, 2014Russian Revels

Solenya is a Russian word for any salted (sol is salt of course) vegetables. the English ‘pickles’ doesn’t quite convey the same breadth of meaning. The sheer variety of uses and processes that Slavs endue their salted staff.

In Slavic gastronomic psychic (a) solenya are associated with the curing process that tends to have more salt than sugar and (b) inevitably makes one think of  late summer/early autumn when salting, canning, fermenting and souring activities go on on scale. My mother always used to say

‘vitaminy for winter!’.

Vitaminy – essential. To ward off that cold. To spruce up the New Year’s eve celebratory table.

It’s 30 degrees C outside you say, why am I thinking of salting things?

Well, because pickling ain’t just good for ya – it’s delicious, addictive, refreshing. In fact, quite perfect for a late spring picnic brunch.

Spring brunch with pickled cucumbers and magazines.

Spring brunch with pickled cucumbers and magazines.

This is the recipe for what I like to call ‘The-quickest-ever-yes-really-pickled-cucumber’ dish. Gosh, Russians are surprised – it takes, say, 10 mins. Best if you leave the cucumbers do their thing for an hour or so though.

No Russian would recognise this effortlessly swift method (quick recipes generally are not the forte of Russian cuisine. longing and suffering seem the necessary ingredient of novels, love and – pickling). But boy russkis love the flavour.

The recipe is obviously nicked. Originally from Darina Allen, that doyenne of Irish cooking whose Ballymaloe Cookery Course book is genuinely my kitchen bible.

Quickest ever pickled cucumbers.

Quickest ever pickled cucumbers.

Sweet cucumber pickle.

What you will need:

  • 1 large cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1-2 onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 120 g cider or white wine vinegar
  • 2 ts salt
  • 50-70 g sugar
  • 2tbs lemon juice
  • chopped dill is optional but oh so suitable

What to do

  1. You can use a mandolin or a food processor to achieve the desired elegantly thin result for your slices.
  2. Whisk vinegar with salt, sugar and lemon juice (and dill if using).
  3. Mix the dressing with the vegetables and leave to stand for 10 mins min to a few hours.
  4. Really good cold with hot, fatty, crunchy things.