“People don’t think much of the cucumber. It’s just a throw-in sort of ingredient,” muses Australian pastry chef Trent Richardson. He’s right. People don’t. So much so that the general misconception of it being a vegetable needs to be addressed time and time again. The cucumber is a fruit, a garnish, a salad base, a cocktail twist — but it’s rarely the centrepiece of a dish.
At 24 years old, Richardson is the head pastry chef at Six Senses Singapore. Tasked to build the dessert menu for its latest outpost in Maxwell, he sat down with his sous-chef to concoct a range of sorbet flavours. And he thought, why not cucumber? Though the concept of cucumber as the star ingredient in a dessert is unheard of, to Richardson, it was a natural choice, “I’ve always wanted to experiment with the cucumber. Highlighting it will give a new perspective on what most see as the secondary ingredient.”
Hence the cucumber sorbet. Honing in on the fruit’s textural crunch, the sorbet is meant to be a cooling treat to reboot the tastebuds as a palate cleanser in-between dishes, or a dessert on its own. The Japanese cucumber is the preferred variety for the recipe. It doesn’t contain developed seeds and it’s never bitter. Richardson flags of its delicate savour, “Cucumber is water-based. If you cook all the juice, it loses all its cucumber flavour.” He suggests heating only a portion of the juice to retain its freshness.
Richardson bolsters the ultra-light sweetness of the fruit with chocolate mint leaves and a spritz of lemon. “The cucumber itself is almost neutral so it could use a kick of minty richness,” the patissier explains. “While the green tea powder on top is the powdered sensory element to balance and round off the sweetness. It’s that final velvet touch on top.”
Curiously, the sorbet comes scooped in oyster shells. Why? Sustainability, Richardson answers matter-of-factly. The hotel kitchen throws away oyster shells and it’s a way for him to use what otherwise will be single-use, and well, they look pretty. Of course, home cooks with no used oyster shells can opt for dessert bowls.
Here, Richardson’s recipe of cucumber sorbet.
Serves approximately 10 pax
Ingredients for pastry chef Trent Richardson’s cucumber sorbet.
350 grams Japanese Cucumber Purée
110 grams Sugar
32 grams Glucose Powder
5 grams Trimoline
1.5 grams Stabiliser
13 grams Lemon Juice
50 grams Chocolate Mint Leaf
10 Empty Oyster Shells
20 grams Matcha Powder Per Oyster Shell
20 grams Snow Sugar Per Oyster Shell
1. Simmer the oyster shells in a pot with some baking powder for at least an hour.
2. Remove and scrub the oyster shells with soap and hot water until they become smooth, without excess odour or remaining contaminants.
3. Rinse and dry the shells and place them in the freezer.
4. Peel and juice Japanese cucumber.
5. Dry mix glucose powder, sugar and stabiliser.
6. Pour 100 grams of the cucumber juice into the mix.
7. Cook until the mix reaches 65°C.
Chef Trent Richardson peels the cucumber.
Cucumbers easily lose their flavour when heated. Pour only 100 grams of the cucumber juice to heat with the mixture.
8. Mix the remaining cucumber juice with the sorbet mixture, and strain it through a fine sieve.
9. Set overnight or until frozen in a container in a freezer.
10. Using a stick blender or Pacojet, churn the frozen sorbet until smooth. Do so quickly to avoid the sorbet from melting.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve.
Let the mixture cool off in a bowl of ice.
The mixture after a couple of hours in the freezer.
1. Using a spoon and palette knife, spread the sorbet into the oyster shells.
2. Spread some sugar or rice evenly in a bowl to hold the oyster shells level. Place back into the freezer.
3. Once frozen, lightly dust the top of the sorbet with some snow sugar and matcha powder.
After scooping the mixture into the oyster shells, smoothen the surface with a palette knife.
Sprinkle snow sugar evenly prior to matcha powder. The former is water-repellant, the latter is not.
Chef Trent Richardson plates his cucumber sorbet.
Pastry chef Trent Richardson’s palate-cleansing cucumber sorbet, served in reused oyster shells.
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