Borage and other cucumber-like flavours

Borage and other cucumber-like flavours

Green Pickled Peaches
Chris Chen

Writing of evocative scents and smells puts me in mind of borage. The flowers of the borage plant are lovely blue starshaped things. Both the flowers and the hairy leaves have a taste of cucumber about them. This dish is based on the premise that we can indulge in an abundance of the flowers: I want them to hold more than the position of garnish on the dish and be enjoyed for their flavour also. (This highlights my perpetual conundrum with garnishes, that they shouldn’t be simply visual enhancements, but should have a meaningful place in the make-up of the dish.)

For the marinated Radicchio


Quantity Ingredient
1 head treviso radicchio, washed, outer leaves removed
200ml apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
extra virgin olive oil

For the marinated cucumber

Quantity Ingredient
1 telegraph cucumber, (not old and gone to seed)
50ml verjuice

For the smoked rainbow trout

Quantity Ingredient
1 x 500-700g rainbow trout, cleaned
2 litre poaching brine, (see note)
1 cupful smoking chips, (eg hickory, applewood or even woody herbs like Thyme or bay)

For the chopped salad

Quantity Ingredient
50g freshly shelled walnuts, blanched and skins removed
6 borage leaves, blanched, refreshed and thoroughly dried
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
olive oil, for drizzling
a few borage flowers, to serve


  1. Marinate the radicchio:
  2. Keeping the radicchio whole, cut it into quarters from top to bottom, leaving the core in place so the wedges are kept intact. Combine the vinegar, peppercorns and 500 ml water in a stainless steel saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the radicchio wedges, either one by one or together, depending on the level of liquid and the saucepan size. Keep the wedges submerged in the boiling liquid for 2 minutes. Remove and drain well, gently squeezing out the excess liquid. Place in a sterilised preserving jar and cover with extra virgin olive oil. Seal with the lid and leave to marinate for a couple of days before use.
  3. Marinate the cucumber:
  4. Peel the cucumber and halve lengthways. Scrape out the seed structure from the middle. Cut into 5 cm lengths and then slice these into thick matchsticks. Spread on a metal tray and put in the freezer for 2–3 hours until thoroughly frozen. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Thaw the cucumber by blanching in the boiling water then refreshing under cold water a couple of times. Drain and gently squeeze dry without distorting the shape too much. Cut into small cubes, place in a bowl and mix thoroughly with the verjuice and salt to taste.
  5. Prepare the rainbow trout:
  6. Using paper towels, dry the fish inside and outside. Put in the brine, cover and store overnight in the refrigerator. The next day dry the fish. Preheat the oven to 100°C. Light the smoking chips in a foillined hot pan until they give off smoke, then transfer the pan to the bottom of the oven. Put the fish on a rack in the oven and smoke for about 20 minutes until the fish is smoked through but still moist.
  7. Make the chopped salad:
  8. Finely chop the walnuts and borage leaves separately. Combine with the parsley in a bowl and season generously with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Mix with the olive oil.
  9. Assemble the dish:
  10. Take a couple of drained leaves of radicchio for each person and trim them down. Toss with salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste and drizzle with a little fresh olive oil. Put a large piece of skinless trout on each plate. Arrange some cucumber and radicchio alongside. Scatter with some of the chopped salad and, of course, the borage flowers.

To make brine

  • Put 2 litres water, 35 g sea salt, 25 g sugar, 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon of white peppercorns, 2 peeled and crushed garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon of peeled and crushed ginger in a pan. Bring t o the boil. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool completely before using.
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