Shiso is one of my favourite herbs, one that I first encountered in Japanese cuisine (which is where its name comes from). In this straightforward recipe from Mark Diacono’s Herb: A Cook’s Companion cucumber is quick-pickled with shiso, vinegar, sugar and a few additional flavourings to create a light condiment or side to a wide range of dishes.
Also known as perilla, shiso is a member of the huge Lamiaceae (mint and sage) family of plants, though its flavour is quite distinct from the rest – to me it tastes like a cross between mint, basil and tarragon (or perhaps aniseed) whereas Mark describes shiso’s taste as cumin and mint. The purple-leaved variety is most common, but there are also green and variegated varieties which can also be used; however using the purple shiso adds a lovely pinkish hue to the pickle.
Shiso Pickled Cucumber
- 480 ml 16fl oz white wine vinegar
- 85 g 3oz caster (superfine) sugar
- 2 tbsp sea salt
- 12 black peppercorns
- a few thin slices of ginger
- 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
- 1 thin red chilli, sliced lengthways and deseeded
- 1 good-sized cucumber, peeled and cut into 3mm (1∕8 in) half moons
- 8 large leaves of shiso, rolled and thinly sliced
Have a sterilized jar ready.
In a pan, bring the vinegar, sugar, salt, peppercorns and ginger to a simmer, stirring to dissolve; simmer for 10 minutes.
Put the garlic, chilli, half the cucumber and half the shiso into the jar. Pour two-thirds of the vinegar in, add the rest of the cucumber and shiso and top with the remaining vinegar. Refrigerate once cool.
This should be excellent after a day, once the shiso loses a little pigment and flavour to the vinegar, and lasts for a week or so, after which the cucumber’s texture becomes a little gummy.
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Herb: A Cook’s Companion by Mark Diacono from publisher Quadrille (RRP £26). Recipe extracted with permission of publisher.