We’ve had the most gorgeous watermelons recently – huge, pot-bellied
orbs of sweet juiciness, just what we love to relish during these long
Summer days. Watermelons have a high water content so try to find
organic fruit if you can.
Apparently there are over 1,000 varieties of watermelon cultivated worldwide and have been for centuries. The seeds of wild watermelons have been found in the tombs of the Pharaohs in ancient Egypt. There used to be an annoying number of seeds in the fruit, but in recent times virtually seedless varieties have been developed which add greatly to my personal enjoyment of the fruit…. (although my grandchildren greatly enjoy a seed spitting competition!).
I love to keep a watermelon in my pantry, it’s super versatile, I use it for both sweet and savoury dishes and it’s a must-have for a Summer picnic. Pop a chunk into a cold box surrounded by lots of ice and then produce a chilled slice as a thirst quencher after a swim – that’s what memories are made of. For a more grown up version, how about injecting a watermelon with vodka…so fun and delicious…check out spruce…. https://www.thespruceeats.com/vodka-watermelon-recipe-4175568
Save the rind – both the flesh and rind are edible. Americans particularly love watermelon rind pickle. Bravo to the person who experimented with that originally. Here is a simple recipe from eco-chef Tom Hunt who writes a regular column in the Guardian Feast magazine every Saturday on Food Waste…
Deliciously refreshing, watermelon juice is made in minutes, great in cocktails too, popsicles, smoothies or as a boozy watermelon slushie.
Grilled watermelon slices are surprisingly delicious. Add watermelon to gazpacho for a delicious Summer starter and we love little chilled cubes with a piece of salty feta shredded over the top… they make an irresistible bite.
How about watermelon jellies or a granita. Watermelon and tomato are another irresistible combination in a salad, add some thinly sliced chilli for extra oomph.
Apart from the time-honoured combination of juicy watermelon and salty feta, both crab and shrimp partner deliciously too.
Finally, a few tips when buying a watermelon. Although you may not have much choice. Look out for a melon that has a strong consistent pale yellow stripe pattern, it should feel heavy for its size. Choose a watermelon where the skin is slightly dull rather than shiny, it’s likely to be riper and sweeter. Often the really ripe ones have a creamy yellow splodge where the melon touched the ground and have a deep hollow sound when tapped on the base
Here are a few recipes to get you started, have fun and enjoy…
Cut the watermelon flesh into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) cubes, arrange on a platter, cover and chill.
Put a little piece of feta on top of each watermelon cube, top with a sprig of mint, secure with a cocktail stick.
Pan-fried Fillets of John Dory with Watermelon and Chilli Salsa
Watermelon is also a delicious foil for mackerel but they have been so scarce this Summer that you may want to use another fresh fish – John Dory, haddock, hake…
450g (1lb) watermelon
zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime
1 not too hot red chilli, seeded and chopped
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
75-110ml (3-4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar
6 x 225g (8oz) fillets of John Dory
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
wedges of lemon
sprigs of fresh coriander
Cut the watermelon flesh into 7mm (1/3 inch) dice, removing the seeds as you do so.
Pop the diced melon into a bowl with the zest and juice of the lime, the chopped red chilli and tablespoon of freshly chopped coriander. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar to taste.
Season the fillets of John Dory with flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pan-grill on a hot pan with a little extra virgin olive oil until golden on both sides.
Serve on hot plates with the salsa, wedge of lime and a few sprigs of
Roast Pork with Watermelon, Ginger and Chilli Salad
For the pork belly
1kg (2 1/4lbs) pork belly with rind attached
1 tablespoon sea salt
2 teaspoons of freshly chopped rosemary
2 garlic cloves, crushed
extra virgin olive oil
450g (1lb) watermelon
1 heaped tablespoon of pickled ginger, chopped
1 small mild chilli, deseeded and chopped
flaky sea salt and a little sugar
fresh mint leaves
fresh basil leaves
8 – 12 black Kalamata olives, stones in.
sprigs of mint and basil leaves
Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.
Score the rind of the pork belly.
Put the sea salt, rosemary, crushed garlic in a bowl and mix well.
Rub the rosemary mixture into the scored skin.
Lay the joint of pork on a rack in a roasting tin, drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes to allow the crackling to form, then reduce the temperature to 160°C/320°F/Gas Mark 3 and cook for a further hour or until fully cooked and the juices run clear. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for about 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, peel the watermelon and cut the flesh into approx. 2cm (3/4 inch) dice, removing the seeds. Fold the chopped pickled ginger and chilli into the watermelon, season with salt and a little sugar to taste.
Carve the pork into 2cm (3/4 inch) thick slices approx.
Add mint and basil leaves and black olives to the watermelon.
Serve the pork with a side of watermelon and olive salad. Garnish with sprigs of mint and basil.
Watermelon, Rosewater and Maftoul Salad
Maftoul – Palestinian or Pearl couscous sounds very exotic but it’s now widely available and so worth keeping in your store cupboard.
500g (18oz) watermelon, 2cm (3/4 inch) cubes
1-2 teaspoons rosewater, depending on intensity
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
225g (8oz) Maftoul or Pearl couscous
seeds of 1 pomegranate
50g (2oz) pistachio, coarsely chopped
1 handful of mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1 handful of parsley, coarsely chopped
1-2 teaspoons sumac
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
60ml (scant 2 1/2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
125g (4 1/2oz) feta
Sprinkle the rosewater over the watermelon cubes (careful not to use too much). Allow to macerate. Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add the couscous and stir for 3 or 4 minutes until coated and toasted. Transfer the maftoul to a stainless-steel saucepan of boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain, rinse, drain and cool.
Meanwhile, flick the seeds out of the pomegranates and save the juice too.
Mix the pomegranate seeds with the watermelon and chopped pistachio nuts. Add the mint leaves and parsley. Season well with flaky sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and sumac.
Whisk the pomegranate molasses with the extra virgin olive oil. Drizzle over the feta, toss gently and add with a shower of crumbled feta to the salad. Taste and tweak if necessary.
Enjoy as a drink or freeze as a granita or popsicles.
Lemon juice can be substituted for lime – taste and tweak.
125ml (4 1/2fl oz) water
5-6 tablespoons sugar
1/2 large watermelon (2.2kg/5lb flesh)
juice and zest of 2 limes
sparkling water to taste
sprigs of fresh mint
Put the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil. When the sugar has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat. Cut the rind off the watermelon, then cut the flesh into 5cm (2 inch) chunks, flick out the seeds and purée the chunks in batches in a food processor. Stir in the syrup, lime juice and zest into the melon purée. Dilute with sparkling water to taste, add a few ice cubes and a sprig of fresh mint to each glass.
Proceed as above but omit the sparkling water – the mixture should taste a little sweeter than you’d like it because it will lose a little of its intensity in the freezing. Pour into popsicle moulds and freeze for 3-4 hours.
Proceed as above. Freeze the watermelon liquid in a sorbetière in the usual way – the texture should be slushy. Serve in chilled glasses with a sprig of mint.
Super easy to do, delicious either as a sweet or savoury dish. Love it with crispy roast pork with crackling or a pan-grilled heritage pork chop.
extra virgin olive oil
Top and tail the watermelon. Cut into quarters lengthways and slice into 2.5 – 3cm (1 – 1 1/4 inch) pieces. Sprinkle lightly with salt on both sides (careful not too much). Lay in a single layer on a wire rack over a platter for 15-20 minutes to draw out excess moisture.
Preheat a pan-grill or barbeque on a high heat.
Dab dry the watermelon with a cloth or kitchen paper.
Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and grill until nicely charred on both sides, 5-6 minutes.
Transfer to a serving platter, serve sprinkled with
1 Crumbled feta and shredded mint.
2. Freshly squeezed
lime juice, drizzle with new season’s honey and sprinkle with a chiffonade of fresh
Tom Hunt’s Pickled Watermelon Rind
Take 400g (14oz) watermelon rind with a little flesh still attached,
peel off the hard skin and cut into 3cm (1 1/4 inch) pieces. Put 275ml (9 1/2fl
oz) water, 100ml (3 1/2fl oz) vinegar, a teaspoon of red pepper flakes, four
teaspoons of salt and 100g (3 1/2oz) sugar in a saucepan, bring to a boil, add
the rind, return to a boil and turn off the heat. Fill a clean jam jar with the
pickled watermelon and juice, top with a few slices of green chilli and screw
on the lid. They’re ready to eat once cooled, and will keep in the fridge for a
month or longer.