Yesterday I turned 6 loaves of bread into sandwiches- half became cream cheese and walnut, and the other half became cucumber sandwiches. Now a cucumber sandwich is quintessentially English, and very delicious too. I have had cucumber sandwiches at home, at our wedding, at The Ritz, and Claridges. You would never think that such a delicate little morsel could be the cause of shredded nerves, but oh, it can be.
You see, the thing with cucumber sandwiches is that they are best eaten as soon as possible after making, so they don’t go soggy. Which in normal circumstances is fine, you can either make them and then eat them, or if you are making a packed lunch to take to work then if they do go a little bit soggy then at least it is only you eating them! Imagine my dilemma yesterday, when I had 30-40 guests arriving at work for a retirement tea party at 12, but at 10.20 I had to be two villages over doing a school assembly, and wouldn’t be back till 11.30. Did I make the sandwiches at 8.30am and risk soggy cucumber syndrome, or did I try and make them at 11.30 and risk not having them done in time?
So I asked some friends. The man replied that I should do them in the morning, it would be easier for me, and besides, people expect cucumber sandwiches to be slightly soggy! Amusing, but not convincing. But the lovely Wendy suggested that I make up the sandwiches by buttering the bread, and then slip the cucumber in at the last minute. So that is what I did. Only, to make things even easier, I sliced the cucumber in the morning, so at 11.30 I just had to fill and cut the sandwiches…and it worked like a charm!
For cucumber sandwiches, for me at least, the bread must be white. But brown or white, it must, must be as thinly cut as you can manage. Then a light spread of butter, taken up to the edges please, and a single layer of slightly overlapping slices of cucumber. I like to cut mine on a mandolin as you can get them ever so thin then. Then press down on top the other slice of buttered bread, cut off the crusts, and cut into your choice of fingers, squares or triangles. You should get 4 of whichever shape you have chosen, so they are quite tiny. You will also end up with a bag of crusts to go and feed the ducks with!
There is a variation on this of which I am rather fond. For this one I prefer brown bread, and I leave the crusts on, but you do whatever you like best. Instead of buttering the bread, I use a thin spreading of cream cheese (like Philadelphia), a layer of cucumber, and then some torn mint leaves scattered across before topping with the other slice of bread. Delicious!
I came across our wedding menu on my computer earlier.
We served pink champagne for the toasts. I remember there being concerns within our family that people would still be hungry, and there was a campaign to have bottles of wine on the tables too…but I am glad we went our own way. Everybody was full to the brim, and so much tea was drunk that wine really was not needed. The room was beautiful, all the tables laid with mismatched vintage china, and we printed our menus onto card, and I found a craft punch in teh shape of a tea cup that we used to decorate them with. Such happy memories!