Cucumber Salad

I am a complete animal obsessive – the kind of person who will stop people in the street so that I can talk to and pet their dogs (while ignoring the human attached to the dog because talking to those who can talk back is too much effort). When people ask me if I am a dog or a cat person I say I adore both, which is true: my brother and I grew up with three cats and two dogs in the house, and I love them more than most humans. That said, I think I am a cat person at heart. They are emotionally complex, tempestuous and smart and sulky, which apparently appeals to me in an animal. This is why I have let our cat-who-is-not-our-cat, Freddie, massively emotionally manipulate me until I am basically a slave who exists to serve her.


When Freddie first showed up at our door, she was all tentative and nervy, needing cajoling to convince her that we were good, cat-loving, unintimidating folk. We’re way, way past that point now, though. She has played James and I like fiddles. Without even realising how we got here, we’re at the point where if I start to eat any sort of human food near her she will come and try to put her nose in it to share it with me, and I have to actively push her away if I do not want to lose my breakfast to a feline.

These days I have to be extremely careful when I do my food photography. If I set everything up and then turn my back for a second to pick up my camera, that cat is across the room and jumping onto my little set like an overjoyed kid being let out of a classroom and into a playground. The problem is that she has discovered that human food is more delicious than animal food, and now she’s not interested in anything else.


Anyway, luckily cats are obligate carnivores and not really interested in cucumber, so this little dish was spared the threat of Freddie’s tongue. This salad is a weird mish-mash of different cuisines, but it’s light and summery and only takes ten minutes to make and, hey, I think it’s tasty and it didn’t get eaten by the cat, so here it is.


Notes: This should feed 3-4 people as a side dish, or two people as the base for a main meal with, for instance, some grilled chicken or fish.

Don’t skip the black onion seeds! They may sound like an odd ingredient if you are not used to them, but they are delicious and they make this salad, adding an interesting bitterness. You can get them from large supermarkets or local Asian shops – if you live in Oxford, you can get them in most stores up and down the Cowley Road.


1/2 small red onion
juice of 1 lime
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper
1 whole cucumber
100g feta
1 small pack coriander
2 tsp black onion/nigella seeds/kalonji


  1. First, finely dice your red onion. Put the onion in a mixing bowl, and squeeze over the juice of the lime, then add a pinch of sugar and some salt and pepper (bearing in mind that feta is very salty, so you don’t want to add too much salt at this stage). Mix it all around and let the onion sit in the mixture.
  2. Next, halve your cucumber, scrape out the seeds (I use a teaspoon for this), and dice the remaining flesh. Crumble your feta cheese. Chop your coriander, stalks and all, as finely as you can be bothered to. Add your cucumber, feta, coriander, and black onion seeds to your red onion, give it all a good stir, then taste and adjust the seasoning. Job done.

Feta and Pomegranate Tabbouleh Salad

James and I take turns in choosing the films we’re going to watch, and we realised last week that he always picks films where everyone dies at the end, and I always pick films that end happily. We are probably educating each other in some way. It’s not that the films I pick are all sweetness and light, it’s just that the important protagonists tend to avoid actually dying. You know, so that they can stay alive to appreciate learning an important moral lesson, watching their children grow, or rocking a new makeover.

Part of the reason that I don’t particularly get along with films where everyone dies is that I think huge numbers of casualties tend to de-value each individual death. There’s no real way of discussing this without spoilers, but we watched Prometheus a couple of weeks ago, and… well, for me, a continuous slew of death after death starts to render the event meaningless. The first one is shocking and sad. But after that? You don’t have time to mourn any of the characters, and instead of regretting their demise you start thinking ‘Seriously? Another one? Why did they go in there? How did they not see that coming?’



My exception to this hard-hearted and blasé attitude is animal death. This probably makes me some sort of monster, but although watching people die in films is bearable – albeit sometimes heart wrenching – watching animals die in films is not. I cannot ever watch I Am Legend again, because I first watched it alone and unaware and was severely traumatised. When James and I watch films together now and it looks like an animal might die, I close my eyes and block my ears and he has to tell me when it’s over. Yes, I know I am pathetic.

(By the way, if anyone out there is as pathetic as me, you will find this to be an excellent resource: https://www.doesthedogdie.com/)

Anyway, yesterday we went to see a film that we chose jointly. No animals die, so it is safe. We were very late to this party, so I am sure you have already seen Inside Out, but if you have somehow missed it then you should really go. I laughed out loud and I cried. It is one of those brilliant, beautiful, animated kids’ films that manages to appeal to children and adults alike by being fantastically funny, touching, and insightful. Some jokes will be lost on little children and appreciated only by adults, and some of the slapstick humour will have kids delighted. It is cleverly pitched to appeal both to children and to the guardians that have to take them to the cinema, so that no one is grumpy and falling asleep. It also cleverly makes a lot of psychological concepts accessible to younger children and gives them a language and a set of characters to comprehend and aid emotional expression.



Anyway, to the recipe, which is completely unrelated as usual.

Notes: I make this salad all the time. Probably too much. It’s quick and easy, and it feeds a crowd. It’s very adaptable, and you can chuck more stuff in or take things out according to preference. It’s basically my bastardised version of tabbouleh.

This recipe will make a big bowl of salad that could be a side dish for 5-6 people.


250g cooked mixed grains (lentils, bulgar wheat, quinoa, freekeh, cous cous, brown rice… whatever you fancy, or a mixture)
1 cucumber
1 200g pack of feta
1 pomegranate (or a pack of pomegranate seeds, for speed)
1 lemon
1 bunch of mint
1 bunch of coriander
1 bunch of parsley
good olive oil
salt and pepper


  1. This is just an assembly job and you probably don’t need me to tell you what to do, but just in case… Tip your cold grains into a large bowl. Chop your cucumber in half, de-seed it, then chop it into a small dice. Add the cucumber to the grains and mix. Crumble your block of feta over the grain mixture and stir. Add your pomegranate seeds. Juice your lemon and pop the juice in there too.
  2. Pick the leaves from your handfuls of herbs, and either chop them very finely or (if you’re like me and don’t have any patience) whack them all in the food processor and blitz. I then add olive oil to the mixture in the food processor as it’s running until it becomes a loose paste (probably around 5 tbsp). Add the herbs and oil to your grains. Season well, and stir.
  3. Cover and pop it in the fridge to chill for at least half an hour: this salad is best served cold. It will keep in there for a couple of days, and is great for lunches if you have leftovers.

Fennel, Apple, and Cucumber Salad

I don’t post many savoury recipes on this blog, mostly because I don’t tend to cook savoury food from recipes. It’s much more about what we’ve got in the cupboards, and what I fancy tossing into the pot that I think might taste good. Translating that into recipes for blog posts is tricky, because I don’t tend to make something in the same way twice and I’ve usually forgotten how I made a meal by the time we’re eating it.

Also, most of the time I have no idea what I am doing. With cakes, it feels more like a science to me. Add x, y and z and mix to the power of n to make blueberry muffins. The outcomes feel more predictable with desserts than savoury dishes, although I admit that’s partly because I cook proper meals so haphazardly most of the time.

But mainly, it’s because by the time I get dinner ready, we’re far too hungry to hang about while I photograph it. For dinner this evening, we had chicken wrapped in streaky bacon, stuffed with spinach and goats’ cheese and roasted in homemade garlic butter. It tasted pretty great, but I can’t do a blog post on it because it never got photographed before being fallen upon by ravenous coyotes (or, more accurately, James and I at 9pm after a really long day).


This salad feels like a cheat of a blog post, to be honest, because it’s not even really a ‘recipe’. All you have to do is chop things up and chuck them in a bowl.

Still, it’s delicious and healthy and summery, and I make it all the time, so I thought I might as well post it to break up the endless parade of cakes, if nothing else.


Notes: Obviously you don’t need to worry massively about quantities here. Use your best judgement.


1 large fennel bulb
1 eating apple (I use Jazz apples here, partly for the pleasing colour contrast of their red skins with all the green, and partly because they provide a good balance of sweetness and sharpness)
1/2 cucumber, seeds removed
1 lemon
5 tbsp good quality olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh dill


  1. Slice your fennel as thinly as you reasonably can, and chop your apple and cucumber into small matchsticks. There are probably julienne peelers or mandolins or something that would do this job admirably, but I just use a knife. Pop the fennel, apple, and cucumber into a bowl and mix them together.
  2. Juice your lemon, and mix it with around 5 tbsp of your good olive oil. Feel free to use more or less as you wish – you want to coat the salad well without drowning it. Toss the fennel, apple, and cucumber in the lemon and olive oil mixture. Season well with salt and pepper, then toss again.
  3. Top the salad with some fresh dill. Cover, and chill in the fridge until needed. I find this salad is best served cold.

See? There was hardly any point at all in me writing that. You could have worked it all out from looking at the picture.