‘I used Buckingham Palace and the Queen’s secret recipe for incredible cucumber sandwiches and they were so much tastier than I expected’ – Tilly Alexander

I don’t know about you but to me, cucumber sandwiches have never screamed tasty, flavor-packed bite to eat. And while I’ve been kept away from trying them one first-hand until now primarily by a dislike of cream cheese – which appears in many of the (more Americanized) recipes – mixing watery cucumber with plain white bread, unsalted butter and not much else has always struck me as rather, well, bland.

However, it turns out that this traditional British afternoon tea staple need not stay so flavored, at least not according to Buckingham Palace. As The Mirror recently reported, the Queen’s staff there have a secret one-ingredient trick for making the fancy tea-time sarnies at her garden parties all the more flavourful: mint.

Intrigued, nervous and always willing to spend some of the work day in the kitchen if it means less time at my desk, I scoured the internet for a more concrete recipe, soon landing on one labeled ‘Buckingham Palace Garden Party Cucumber Sandwiches’ from Food. Then it was off to Lidl to acquire my ingredients for £ 3.83, nearly 30 minutes fashioning them into royal-approved treats and, far too soon for my liking, time to try them. And to my surprise, I found myself not only happily eating my sandwich, but also my words.

READ MORE: ‘I tried Buckingham Palace’s recipe for making English scones, ate them like the Queen with jam before cream and they were perfect’

The recipe required blissfully few ingredients, all of which I picked up from Lidl bar the salt and pepper
The recipe required blissfully few ingredients, all of which I picked up from Lidl bar the salt and pepper

Possibly, you are wondering how it took me 30 minutes to make a single quadrant of cucumber sandwiches. That would certainly be a fair thing to wonder given, at first glance, the recipe appears blissfully simple: only six ingredients and a little over 100 words’ worth of ‘Directions’. Actually and a little deceptively, there’s at least 10 or so steps hidden within the four small paragraphs of text – and some of these aren’t as easy as you might expect.

Step one, peeling the cucumber, was achieved easily. Shaved of his green skin, my cucumber looked a little silly, naked and veiny – but he was ready to go after not much more than a minute thanks to the peeler, so that was a win in my book. Then came the next part: ‘slice in paper-thin rounds’. ‘Paper-thin,’ I guffawed, ‘What does that even mean?’

The first step is to peel your cucumber
The first step is to peel your cucumber

It struck me that presumably this meant the thickness of your average A4 sheet or thereabouts. But sadly, achieving that desired thickness was not quite so simple as coming to an answer, at least if your knife skills are as unrefined as mine. While I am certainly better than Kendall Jenner at lopping up a cucumber, even with a sharp blade it was difficult to yield the wafer-like translucent circles that I was after, with the majority either coming out card thickness or thin enough but only half moons .

Several minutes in, I realized that I’d inadvertently consumed roughly one-third of the cucumber already, merely by using my mouth as a bin for the rejects. Oh well, there was by now a suitable, slightly sloppy pile with enough rounds for a whole plate of sandwiches (I had read ahead too late and seen that only two layers of cucumber discs were required for two slices of bread). Salting and draining time!

This was the 'paper-thin' thickness I was striving for - though I missed the mark on the vast majority of my sliced ​​cucumber pieces
This was the ‘paper-thin’ thickness I was striving for – though I missed the mark on the vast majority of my sliced ​​cucumber pieces

In steps I didn’t totally understand the necessity of, my vegetable rounds were sloshed into a colander, sprinkled with salt, mixed gently by hand (not part of the recipe but I assume, allowable and advisable) and then left to ‘drain’ for 15 minutes. Unfortunately, I did not get to rest while the cucumber did because I needed to prepare the mint, AKA Buckingham Palace’s secret special addition for incredible cucumber sandwiches.

This item hadn’t been prescribed a designated chopping time within the directions but one was clearly required in order to allow me to ‘sprinkle with finely chopped mint’ shortly. I couldn’t be too cross, though, on account of the strong, herby and uplifting aroma released by my knife’s movements. Already the mint was improving my cucumber sandwich experience, simply by making me envision breezy, European summer evenings.

The cucumber rounds need to sit and drain for 15 minutes in a colander
The cucumber rounds need to sit and drain for 15 minutes in a colander

Soon my timer erupted and it was time to begin buttering the bread. Well, actually, according to the recipe, it was time to press my cucumber to release excess water then pat dry with paper towels. However, I accidentally missed this step and, having only now noticed it during a re-reading long after eating (and enjoying) my sarnies, would argue it is reasonably optional.

In truth, I did notice that my small mountain of vegetable discuses was more watery, gelatinous and slop-like following the advised lie-dow (I assume as a result of the salt). But they were fine when plucked up individually and applied to my lightly buttered white bread base neatly, with a second layer of cucumber rounds creating a messy geometric pattern. Now for the salt, pepper and mint, followed by a blanket of bread (also buttered).

The double layer of peeled cucumber rounds reminded me, oddly, of bananas
The double layer of peeled cucumber rounds reminded me, oddly, of bananas

All that remained was to cut off the crusts, then slice my sandwich diagonally in half, and half again. I followed these instructions, musing that, one, it would surely be easier to remove crusts in advance (less slip, more grip and no cucumber lost) and two, this cutting pattern made the finished product resemble a half-finished Union Jack.

It was time to eat and, though initially planning to replicate the Queen’s apparent method of consuming her cucumber sandwiches (with a cup of Assam or Earl Gray tea), I decided it was far too hot a day and carried my plate outside. Half way to the proper garden party setting, at least. Or perhaps, three-quarters of the way, I decided, after my first bite.

The finished product, featuring the all-important mint
The finished product, featuring the all-important mint

The triangular shape and crustless-ness of my sandwich quarters made them more prone to excreting ingredients than my usual preference (squares), meaning they demanded being eaten carefully, delicately even. As one would probably feel the need to eat if really dining with the Queen. The slickness of the cucumber bits and light fluffiness of the innards-only bread, meanwhile, was definitely giving Spring / Summer vibes (to steal a fashion phrase).

As for the flavors, this was where I was the most surprised and impressed. Normally I avoid cold butter at all costs, even in sandwiches – I know it’s weird, please refrain from emailing me about it – but I had to concede that, actually, here the gentle background butteriness was a perfect foil to the fresh cucumber, necessary radio static of the salt and pepper and punchy mint. Oh, the mint. A definite winner. Able even to make a cucumber sandwich taste fun. Who knew? (Apart from the Queen, that is.)

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