The simple sandwich, an essential cornerstone of lunch for some, a poor show of feeding your foreign guests to others. This month Marah Köberle tries to entice her Kenyan readers into appreciating a quintessential sandwich ingredient which is ever so easy to make and adds crunch to your two pieces of bread and cheese.
I am in Germany on a fundraising trip with a handful of Kenyan and Nigerian startups. A whirlwind tour of hip places, bustling events, pitching sessions and fancy European light lunches compressed into less than a week. On the fourth day, two members of my team come up to me and ask about the lunchtime offerings: why do they have to eat sandwiches and finger food all the time, they ask? Is there any way they could get some soup or stew instead?
To be clear: we are not talking soft toast bread and peanut butter sandwiches here. Think crunchy baguettes, sourdough breads spread with spicy mustard, fresh salad leaves, nutty cheese, cured meats and – most importantly – fresh and spicy pickled cucumbers. Quite puzzled, I realise that while sandwiches are a totally viable and acceptable food offering in Germany and other countries, it is not considered a full meal in other parts of the world. In short: the sandwich is not valued in the same way all over the world.
Which is a pity as they really can be quite delicious and filling!
The star of this article is the humble cucumber pickle. It is said that cucumbers were cultivated – and most likely pickled – in India and Egypt more than 3000 years ago. Today, the vegetable remains popular the world over. The pickled version is a traditional condiment in US, British, Northern and Eastern European, Russian and Jewish cuisines. Through pickling cucumbers, they could be made to last long in order to store and consume them during the winter months.
Pickled cucumbers may be the most traditional of all pickles and to take indulge in your passion for the sandwich and allow you to create the perfect one, this month I have a simple, yet satisfying, pickling recipe. Even kitchen novices can have a go with it.
Keep in mind that if pickled in small quantities and consumed within about four weeks, it is not necessary to sterilize the glasses with pickles, making the method easier. Fresh and not damaged cucumbers ensure that your pickle stays fresh. Buy the smallest cucumbers you can find to reach maximum crunchiness. Wash the glasses you put the pickles in thoroughly. When contaminated the pickled produce will not stay fresh.
Mustard pickled cucumbers
INGREDIENTS FOR FOUR JARS
- 4-6 small local cucumbers
- 300ml good white wine vinegar (no vinegar substitute)
- 300 – 400 ml drinking water
- 4-6 spoons of sugar (depending on taste)
- 2 spoons of salt
- 2 onions
- 1 spoon black peppercorns
- 1 spoon Mustard seed
- Fresh Dill
- Bay leaf
- 3 -5 loves
- To prepare the pickling stock, slice the onions in half rings and put them with the water, vinegar, sugar, salt, black peppercorns, mustard seed, bay leaf and cloves in a pot. Boil for about 10 minutes.
- Cut the cucumbers in slices or quarters, don’t cut them too thin! You can remove the soft inner part with a spoon. Put the cucumbers and dill in the glasses, only press lightly to not damage them.
- Put the jars on a wet kitchen towel to prevent bursting and fill the boiling hot pickling brine until the cucumbers are fully covered. Leave about 1cm of the rim of the jar free. Close the jars at once tightly and put them on their head to allow to create a vacuum.
- You can start consuming your pickles after about one week. They’ll keep fresh for several weeks – but trust me, they’ll be eaten even before.
- You can add spices to your pickles as you wish. Why not add ginger or garam masala for some Kenyan pickle flavour? You can add slices of carrots, garlic, chilli or other vegetables to your pickle as you like.