A very very old school and meat filled recipe for cucumber soup.
by John Pope on November 27, 2014
The idea of cucumber soup is not one that massively appeals to me, it sounds very green and very healthy, and to be honest I have no great love for cucumbers. I have in fact never met a cucumber soup that I particularly liked.
But… I do like meat, and I also love old (very old) cookery books. Imagine my delight then when glancing through English Housewifry, published in 1764, I stumbled on a recipe for cucumber soup where the first two ingredients are beef and mutton.
Take a houghil of beef, break it small and put it into a stew-pan, with part of a neck of mutton, a little whole pepper, an onion, and a little salt; cover it with water, and let it stand in the oven all night, then strain it and take off the fat; pare six or eight middle-siz’d cucumbers, and slice them not very thin, stew them in a little butter and a little whole pepper; take them out of the butter and put ’em in the gravy. Garnish your dish with raspings of bread, and serve it up with toasts of bread or French roll.
Now, to translate that all into a more modern parlance, and take into the account that kitchen technology has advanced slightly….
A ‘houghil of beef‘ is a shin, and ‘raspings of bread‘ are breadcrumbs. The rest is all reasonably self explanatory, which means we end up with the following recipe.
Roughly chop a shin of beef, and put it into a large pan together with a neck of mutton, a peeled but whole onion, a few peppercorns and a little salt
Add enough water to cover, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat till it is barely simmering, cover and leave the stock to cook for 3-6 hours, then strain the stock and skim off the fat.
Peel and slice (but too thinly) 6-8 cucumbers. Saute them in butter with a few peppercorns. ONce they are cooked, remove them from the butter and add them to the stock.
Serve sprinkled with breadcrumbs, and together with toast or bread rolls.
And how does it taste
Unsurprisingly, it tastes… like beef stock with bits of cucumber in it, which far more surprisingly isn’t actually completely horrible. It’s worth a go, and could easily be improved on with a bit of an oriental twist to take it somewhere more in a pho direction.