Friday, 13 September 2013

Smashed Cucumbers and Marinated Aubergines



I was cooking the other day, with my very helpful friend perched comfortably on the couch observing me.

"Stop pinching the food." 
"What? (munch) Oh."

I know it's a bad habit, but I have an uncontrollable urge to nibble while I'm cooking. It's not even that I'm hungry, or that I need to taste the food (I do use this excuse a lot); I just need to nibble. I don't even realise it sometimes, until I look at the curiously small pile of cut vegetables on the side of my chopping board. 

"The word for it is greedy." (Yes that same friend again watching me type – GO AWAY TOM.)


I'm quite good these days. Before I even start cooking I make a little salad/ snack just to keep dinner safe from my (yes) greedy fingers. It sounds like a crazy thing to do, especially when you're already caught up in preparing the actual dinner, but it honestly takes less than a minute's work and is probably better than the packet of crisps Tom was trying to distract me from pinching dinner with. I usually just wing it with the vegetables that I'm already in the midst of chopping.

Smashed cucumbers is one of my favourite Chinese street snacks/ London kitchen snacks. Visually, it looks a mess compared to the usual neat circles of sliced cucumbers, but their ugly ragged edges hold on to the dressing wonderfully; also, this method is perhaps the quickest way that one could prepare cucumbers. Everyone has a slightly different way of doing the dressing, but I like mine with a drop of chilli oil for a fiery kick to the sharp, musky taste of black vinegar. I say dressing, but this is more so a marinade then a dressing, for the magic really happens when you let all that wonderful flavours seep through the crude smashed edges.


The same goes for aubergines, simply steamed so it becomes a soft sponge for soaking up gorgeous marinades– again, I wing it but my favourites are using miso/sesame paste or sweet soy sauce. I thought I'll throw this one in too; depending on how quick you finish with preparing dinner, you can either have it as a snack or a side dish. Both take seconds to prepare; the waiting time is for you to get on with what you've got planned for dinner. If you can't wait the ten minutes before nibbling, you have a far more serious problem than I do.

CHINESE SMASHED CUCUMBERS
Ingredients
1 tbsp Chinese black vinegar
1 tsp good, traditionally brewed soy sauce
drizzle of chilli oil*
drizzle of toasted sesame oil
pinch of unrefined sugar
pinch of sea salt

*To make your own, put 2-3 tbsp dried chilli flakes into a glass jar, heat 1/2 cup groundnut oil till smoking, let cool a little, then pour into the jar, and let infuse for any period of time from1 hour to forever.

Method
1. Using the handle of a large knife, smash the cucumber until it cracks open. Turn knife around and roughly chop into chunks.
2. Mix the rest of the ingredients for the dressing and toss with the cucumbers. Leave for 10 minutes to marinate and become awesome.

~

MARINATED AUBERGINES
Ingredients 
1 small young aubergine
1 tbsp good, traditionally brewed soy sauce
1 tbsp fine sugar 
1 tsp mirin*
drizzle of toasted sesame oil

optional, to serve
chopped spring onions
toasted sesame seeds 

*If unavailable, just use a bit more sugar and a dash of rice wine. If you don't have rice wine either, just heck it, it will still be awesome.

Method
1. Chop the aubergine into roughly even, medium-sized chunks.
2. Steam over high heat for 10 min-ish till cooked and soft. 
3. Whisk the ingredients for the dressing until well combined, and toss with the cooked aubergines. Leave for 10 minutes to marinate and become awesome. Sprinkle over spring onions and/or sesame seeds, or don't. 


So, two snacks that took me less than a minute of actual movement. Of course, I spent the ten minutes  styling and photographing them, so dinner didn't actually get made on time that day, but you should be able to have a bit of snacking going on without interruption to your dinner plans.

If you would like the miso/sesame paste marinade, give me a shout below/ tweet/ facebook me, the post  is long enough as is.



Both my favourite vegetables, and both ending their run soon as the seasons change, so load up!
More cucumber/ aubergine recipes 
Sambal Grilled Aubergine Stack
Sayur Lodeh (a veg curry, but better)
Nonya Achar (best time to make this peranakan pickle)
Sweet Asian Pickles


41 comments:

  1. Mmm! I look at nibbling as the chef's perk! Barbara Tropp makes an Asian pickle that I adore ... spiced rice wine vinegar and red pepper flakes ... some other 'stuff' I'm forgetting, but ooohhh lala ! tasty! Like your cukes and aubergine!

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    1. Ooh lala indeed! I love pickles, though must say this is quite different taste wise from a pickle. I think (hope) you'll love it! :)

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  2. what a great idea for snack.

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    1. So quick ! And healthy enough so you can still stuff yourself at dinner later :D

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  3. Great snack to make to get rid of any pent up angst hah! hah!

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    1. HUR HUR HUR picture ex-boyfriend/boss/annoying neighbour and then go for it.

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  4. I love the idea of smashing a cucumber. I think I'd be quite good at that when I'm starving hungry and getting a bad case of the munchies! Those marinades sound mouthwatering and the end result looks delicious. Great idea for a snack.

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    1. It's awesome- so quick! Who can bother with slicing! And you get to do some anger-management work at the same time. AND get a salad out of it. Triple win.

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  5. I like ugly smashed cucumber! Also, can I have the miso/ sesame paste marinade?

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    1. Unfortunately, no measurements.. I will go measure the next time. But it's white miso, tahini, soy sauce, sugar, little bit of rice vinegar :)

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  6. I love aubergine but I the vegetable seems to soak up so much oil. I am glad you share this. Cannot wait to try it! Many thanks xxx

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    1. This is a great healthy way to prepare aubergines! But I do admit I love fried aubergines..still my favourite way with them probably, I just eat them and don't think too much ha!

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  7. Quick, easy and healthy, the perfect combination for a snack!!

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    1. Yay! I wish all snacks were like that though (just had a guilty spoon-in-peanut butter moment)

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  8. A simple and refreshing Chinese starter or appetizer, usually I took these at Chinese restaurant, but at home I not use to prepare starter ^_^.

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    1. Haha I guess you can call it a starter but for me it's just something to munch on before I eat up all the other food ;)

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  9. Such good snack ideas, can't wait to try. All flavours I love and eat a lot :)

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    1. Thanks Laura- hope you try it soon! We do love the same flavours I realise- hurrah!

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  10. ha I think we are all guilty of this and love this recipe

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    1. Thank you! Just mentioned to Rhu & Sam above- had a guilty spoon-in-peanut butter moment yikes.

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  11. Just mouthwatering...looks delicious!

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  12. I'm like you... I love to nibble when I'm cooking. I'd like to think that it's a warm-up before the actual meal :)
    The smashed cucumber looks brilliant and the aubergines... oh... so good. Aubergine is my favourite veg.

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    1. Warm up? Ha! I like the sound of it. Good justification.

      If you like aubergine you will love this I think- please do try! It's one of my favourite veg too, high five.

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  13. "Using the handle of a large knife, smash the cucumber until it cracks open"... does that mean I should hold it by the blade while swinging the handle through the air? Sounds like it would end in tears, lol! Speaking of tears, I have a full bottle of chilli oil in my kitchen... well, full minus about 2tsps. I've had it there for 7 years. I bought it from a Chinese supermarket in Paris; tried it at home and almost died. Talk about intense... so I think I'll give that a miss, but this looks like a great snack to have with a beer!

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    1. Ha! I'll liek to see you try that:)

      Really?! I don't think chilli oil is hot enough to make me cry.. well try it anyway with sesame oil isntead of chilli oil, maybe a drop or two to build up your tolerance. Also, with the vinegar soy sauce and sugar, the heat doesn't overpower too much. ALTHOUGH. I would be doubtful about that 7 year old jar...

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  14. Lush! I am a serial nibbler. i have to chop twice the amount of carrots I need as I'll eat half while stirring/prodding/faffing.

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    1. Completely understand. It's subconscious; I can't even do anythign about it!

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  15. Haha, I was trying to figure out who your 'friend' might be -- at first I imagined a furry friend, then I imagined a child, but I suspect that Tom may be... your partner ;-). I pinch food too -- it's amazing how unconscious eating is really (rather primitive stuff). I love sesame oil but now I must go on a hunt for black vinegar!! (never tried it).

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    1. Just a friend, not my partner.. ;)

      You will love black vinegar- it has a sweet tangy complexity to it, much like balsamic vinegar, but the taste is more musky and less fruity. It gives such depth!

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  16. Yum. I make a similar smashed cucumber dish. Instead of mirin I use black vinegar and hot oil if I feel like getting kicked. Thanks for sharing this healthy cucumber dish.

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    1. I use mirin only for the aubergines, like you, I use black vinegar and chilli oil for the cucumbers- YUM! And I don't care about getting kicked at all hur.

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  17. Always guilty of snacking away half of my mise not-so-en place before finishing a dish...
    Smashed cucumbers are one of my favourites as well, and I still swear that my mom smashes better than I ever can. Whenever I'm making these back at home, I let her do the smashing! I just need a jar of both these things in the refrigerator at all times.

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    1. Yeah what en place? ;)

      How do you judge how well someone smashes? Haha she sounds like a force to behold! And yeah, what a good idea, maybe I should make extra for healthyish late night snacking too.

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  18. Happy Mid -autumn Festival! I am right along with you a I find myself always snacking before dinner and this would be the perfect tasty little no guilt holdover until dinner is ready. Take Care, BAM

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    1. HAPPY MID AUTUMN FESTIVAL :) Yes go make some guilt free snacks now, bam. Away from the mooncakes!!

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  19. Steamed aubergines with chilli oil is one of my favourite vegetable snacks too and smashed cucumber has been on my cooking list for ages. I first saw it in a Japanese cookery book and thought that making it might be so much fun! Your both side-dishes/snacks look terrific!
    By the way, I also keep on eating while cooking. Even today I have made a big salad for lunch and had to cut more cucumber at the end because I had swallowed everything I had on the cutting board. PS Sorry for such a late comment. I was on long and very busy holidays in Japan.

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    1. Hey sissi! Of course I'm not going to expect you to still comment on blogs when you should be relaxing and away from the computer on holiday! I hope you had a good time in japan- I better go visit your blog now and see what's new and your latest travel-inspired dishes :)

      You will love smashed cucumbers I think- this is so your thing! And hi-five about the cucumbers. I do that too- so often!

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  20. I'm a total snacker while I prepare food...try not to, but it's hard to resist. I love how you introduce me to so many new recipes/food combinations here! yum :)

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  21. I have a similar recipe and I love this dish. Your illustration is so neat and add this blog a ton of charm!

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