Thursday 22 June 2017

Hot days - Watermelon salad with Thai dressing

With temperatures soaring in London, all I can think of in my kitchen is fresh food.  Last Sunday, Father’s Day, our friends Adri and Brian invited us for a barbecue in their garden. It’s always a pleasure to visit them, not only for their company but also for their food (besides being great hosts, they are the best cooks). Discussing the menu over the phone, Adri suggested watermelon and feta cheese as one of the salads, and I offered to make it.

The first time I ever had that salad was in Jaffa, Israel. I still remember the pleasant surprise of the sweetness and crunchiness of the watermelon with the saltiness of the feta cheese. It’s a marriage made in heaven. It’s also very easy to put together: cut the watermelon in chunks or slices and mix with feta cheese, kalamata olives, some basil leaves, and drizzle it with a good quality extra-virgin olive oil.

I made the salad for us to have as a starter before we headed for the meat barbecue, which included juicy jerk chicken, Brian’s speciality. I was about to use that salad as the focus of my post today, when my senses were assaulted by the memory of a trip to the tropics (temperatures over 30 Celsius in London can do that to you).

One of my favourite combinations of fruit and saltiness is pomelo salad, a Southeast Asian dish. The dressing is sharp, tangy, spicy, and yet very refreshing. Then, I decided to try and make it using watermelon instead, as I can find it in every fruit and veg shop in my neighbourhood at the moment. And I simply love it. My experiment worked! The first bite took me straight back to Koh Samui. I hope you’ll also excite your taste buds.

Watermelon season.
Cut the fruit in chunks or slices.
Some of the ingredients for the dressing.
Enjoy it as a starter or as side dish.

Watermelon salad with Thai dressing
Serves 4-6


¼ of a big watermelon or a whole small one, chilled
1 small cucumber, cut into slices
1 handful of roasted peanuts, crushed
1 handful of fresh coriander leaves

For the dressing

Juice of 1 lime
Juice of half orange
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 small red chilli, chopped
1/2 teaspoon of maple syrup (Optional. I prefer to omit it, as sometimes it can interfere with the sweetness of the watermelon. For me, the dressing works better when it is slightly salty and sharp. You can be your own judge. Try a small piece of the fruit before adding the maple syrup).
Salt to taste
A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil

Place all the fruits in a big bowl. Mix all the dressing ingredients. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Sprinkle fresh coriander and the roasted peanuts on top. Serve immediately as a starter or as a side to white fish, grilled prawns or barbecued pork belly.

A healthy note: watermelon has a high water content which makes it a great thirst quenching fruit. Watermelon contains vitamin A and a compound called lycopene, which research has shown to be associated with lower rates of prostate cancer.

Till next week! 

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