Whenever I am looking for a snack that is not too fattening, I turn to these cucumber spears. We used to eat a simpler version as children, cucumber halves or quarters just sprinkled with lime juice and dusted with spices, but now I have started giving the dish a final “tarka,” which makes it even better. You can serve them with drinks (hand out napkins) or with all meals, Western or South Asian.

    You need to use seedless cucumbers here. I like to use the ones that are labeled Armenian or Persian. They are about 6 inches long, about 1¼ inches wide, and are quite free of developed seeds. You can, of course, use other similar cucumbers.

    Ideally, the cucumbers should be dressed shortly before you eat them, as salt makes them wilt.

    SERVES 4

    • 4 cucumbers, as described below, or the nearest substitutes
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • ¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
    • ⅛ teaspoon ground roasted cumin seeds (see this page)
    • ⅛ teaspoon chili powder
    • 2 teaspoons olive or peanut oil
    • ⅛ teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds
    • ⅛ teaspoon whole cumin seeds
    • 5–6 fresh curry leaves or small basil leaves

    1. Peel the cucumbers and halve them lengthwise. Arrange them on a plate, cut side up. Dribble the lemon juice over them as evenly as you can manage. Now sprinkle the salt, cumin seeds, and chili powder over them in the same even manner.
    2. Put the oil in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop, a matter of seconds, add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for a few seconds. Throw in the curry leaves and turn off the heat. Now tilt the frying pan and spoon the oil and spices evenly over the cucumbers. They are ready to be served.