Watermelon always seemed the ultimate treat. After all, my childhood was spent watching cartoons in which any success was celebrated with a ‘slap-up’ feast full of large wedges of the stuff. But, since it was absent from 1970s Britain (or at least absent from our local Lipton’s supermarket), I was disappointed when, as an adult, I finally got to try it and it did, indeed, taste of water.
That all changed when I moved to a part of North London that is full of Turkish and Greek-Cypriot shops. They have the best feta, halloumi, herbs and olive oil all year round and, I discovered, their watermelon is lovely too (though even the good stuff really only tastes of sweet water). About three weeks ago, a large square wooden box, open on one side appeared in my local Turkish grocer. From now until September it will be full of whole watermelons, with a couple of inviting smile-like pieces balanced on top to show how ripe they are. This ‘cage’ full of green and red fruit comes out every year and its arrival is a sure sign that summer, such as it is, is on its way. The melon’s colour has been a bit pale for me so far but now that it’s starting to turn a tempting deep red it’s time to crack open this recipe which is a perfect balance of salt and sweet, crunchy and soft. It may seem a bit too chilly for such a salad tonight but, apparently, it’s going to be 30° on Monday…
Watermelon and Feta Salad (adapted from Nigella Lawson’s recipe)
For two you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon or so (15ml)
freshly ground black pepper
small red onion (you’ll need half)
pitted black olives, 30g
400g piece ripe watermelon
Feta cheese, 75g
small bunch/handful fresh flat-leaf parsley, stalks removed and leaves intact (i.e. don’t chop them up, you want it to remain leafy)
small bunch fresh mint, chopped
1. Peel the red onion, cut it in half (root to tip) then cut each half widthways into semi-circles. Juice half of the lime, put the onions into a small non-metallic bowl and mix in the juice. Leave for a few minutes so that the juice softens the texture and flavour of the onion. (Nigella writes that the steeping brings out the ‘transparent pinkness’ of the onions and ‘diminishes their rasp’. I confess that’s all a bit faffy for me sometimes and I haven’t really noticed much difference on the occasions when I haven’t done it).
2. De-seed the watermelon (use whichever way suits you best; either cut the seeds out when it’s all in one piece or when it’s in smaller pieces) and cut the red flesh into bite-sized chunks. Put them in a large salad bowl.
3. Cut the feta into bite-sized pieces too and add them to the watermelon
4. Wash the herbs, remove the stalks from the parsley, chop the mint and add to the feta and watermelon.
5. Tip the onion-lime juice mix over the salad, add the oil and olives, then toss very gently. Add freshly ground black pepper and taste. It may need a bit more lime juice but, depending on the saltiness of your feta, it shouldn’t need any salt.