NATURE’S ICE LOLLY




On a hot summer’s day, there is nothing more refreshing than a cool slice of melon or watermelon. With their wonderfully aromatic fragrance and cool flesh, they are one of the glories of summer market stalls.
Melons vary enormously in size, skin texture and colour. They all have a high water content that makes them refreshing, but they can be a little disappointing if eaten either under- or over-ripe.
A ripe melon should have slight 'give' to the skin, and at room temperature the perfumed aroma of the fruit should come through the skin. If the fruit is under-ripe it tends to be rather bland and lacking in sweetness; an over-ripe melon has a fermented, slightly unpleasant taste.
All melons are believed to have originated in India and have been cultivated since ancient times when the aptly named watermelons were traditionally offered to thirsty travellers. They grow well in warm climates, and many varieties such as honeydew, cantaloupe and the oddly named “Piel de Sapo”, meaning ´toad’s skin` - a reference to its dark green roughly textured surface, come from Spain.
My favourites include Galia, a melon that looks like a cantaloupe on the outside and honeydew on the inside. Its smooth-textured flesh is sweet and juicy offering a delicious flavour and aroma, Cantaloupe, named after the town of Cantalupo near Tivoli outside Rome and the exceptionally aromatic Charentaise from France.
Melon is the perfect partner for Serrano ham and works well with fresh ginger, mint and also adds sweetness to fruit salads or in refreshing drinks, such as fruit punches and cocktails. You can improve the eating quality of firm, uncut melons by leaving them at room temperature for two to four days; the fruit will not become sweeter, but it will turn softer and juicier. If during that time the fruit has not reached its peak, it was picked immature and will not be worth eating. Once ripened or cut, melons should be refrigerated and used within about two days. Enclose them in plastic bags to protect other produce in the refrigerator from the ethylene gas that the melons give off. Ripe melons are also very fragrant, and the aroma of a cut melon can easily penetrate other foods.
Watermelon is sometimes referred to as nature's ice lolly and it is perfect to eat on a beach. It takes eight to 12 hours to chill a whole watermelon thoroughly. Cut watermelon should be tightly wrapped in plastic and refrigerated for no more than four days. Watermelon can also be mixed with fresh tomatoes, sherry vinegar and olive oil to make a cooling watermelon and tomato gazpacho. I often serve this soup in the restaurant as an appetizer during the long summer months.
I also serve a wonderfully fresh salad of melon, Mediterranean prawns and rocket leaves tossed in curry oil on our Simply Fosh menu that you could easily try at home. It’s easy to prepare, light, fresh and healthy. What more do you need? 


WATERMELON GAZPACHO WITH A SIMPLE CHERRY TOMATO SALAD  


Ingredients:            serves 4 

Simple cherry tomato salad  
8            cherry tomatoes, quartered
1            small red onion (finely chopped) 
6            basil leaves, torn 
75ml      olive oil             
A pinch of black olive Flor de Sal                

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and leave to sit for 10 minutes.   

Watermelon Gazpacho: .
200g       Watermelon (de-seeded and diced)
1            Cucumber (peeled, seeded and diced)
4            Tomatoes (diced)
2 tbsp.   sherry Vinegar
4 tbsp.            Extra Virgin olive oil
             Salt and pepper   

Blend all the ingredients in a liquidiser and pass through a fine sieve. Chill in the refrigerator until required.   
To serve: Divide the tomato salad between 4 large soup bowls. Pour around the chilled watermelon gazpacho and serve immediately.                                        

 A SALAD OF MEDITERRANEAN PRAWNS, MELON AND ROCKET LEAVES TOSSED IN CURRY OIL   

Ingredients:            serves 4   

16 large Mediterranean prawns (peeled) 
2tbsp olive oil             
1            small galia melon (peeled, de-seeded) 
4            bunches of rocket leaves 
6tbsp curry oil            
  A pinch of flor de sal   

Curry oil: 
250ml            olive oil 
100ml            vegetable oil 
1tbsn.            curry powder 
1tspn.            ground turmeric 
4            crushed cardamom pods 
1            star anise, crushed 
6            fennel seeds 
Seasoning   

Place all the ingredients in a saucepan, set over a very low flame and warm slightly. Do not bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for at least 2 hours. Pass through a fine sieve. Season with salt and pepper.   

Cut the melon into large dice and chill until required. Season the prawns and heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan. Pan-fry the prawns for 1 minute on each side until just cooked and juicy in the middle. Remove from the heat and pour over 6 tablespoons of curry oil.   Place the warm prawns and curry oil in a large bowl, then add the diced melon and rocket leaves. Season with a little flor de sal, toss the salad and serve immediately.          


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