Sometimes the lack of a complicated recipe puts a block on all of my writing efforts. I wonder if it is necessary to share a sandwich recipe so simple that essentially it reads, bread, butter and cucumber – assemble. These dainty finger sandwiches were first made by my friend Mel who lined them up on their edges to make a pattern of bread, bread, butter, cucumber, bread, bread, butter, cucumber…. The combination of fragrant butter and crunchy sour cucumbers was utter perfection. So simple yet so satisfying. I added flakes of sea salt to my sandwiches to give a bit more texture and found that if made in the evening and stored in the fridge overnight, become even better the next day.

Luis Meléndez, Still Life with Cucumbers and Tomatoes Together with a Knife and other Kitchen Utensils upon a Wooden Table, 35.5 x 48cm, oil on canvas, Private collection

The still life above, an excellent example of a bodegón painting, is composed of the ingredients found in a simple salad – cucumber, tomato, olive oil, vinegar and salt. Meléndez contrasts the rough surfaces of the hewn table and nubby cucumbers with the smooth contours of the tomatoes and bowls. The diagonal knife creates a sense of depth in the composition and the brilliant coloured produce set against the dark background displays Meléndez‘s skill in rendering diffused light. There are several versions of this composition by Meléndez and according to the Sotheby’s catalogue entry for this painting, “The olive oil strainer, the jug of vinegar and the large alcorcón bowl were evidently favoured possessions of the painter for they recur in numerous other works.”

{Cucumber Finger Sandwiches}

Yield: 36 finger sandwiches

1/2 cup white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Lebanese cucumber, thinly sliced
250 grams butter, softened
1/4 cup chopped herbs, a mixture of dill, parsley, chives, mint and coriander
loaf of soft white bread
sea salt

In a small bowl, add the vinegar, salt and cucumber slices. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, thoroughly mix the softened butter with the mixed herbs. Drain the cucumbers from the vinegar and begin to assemble the sandwiches. Spread a layer of butter, sprinkle over the sea salt and cover in one layer of cucumbers. Cut the crusts off the sandwich and slice into 3 to 4 long rectangles, depending on the size of the slice of bread.

Repeat until all of the ingredients have been used and serve. Can be made up to a day in advance.