Watermelons, all big-bellied and heavy as lead balloons, are summer’s sweet and refreshing reward. Their sumptuous flesh invites the company of all manner of flavours, and is especially good with a salty component, whether that’s feta or a dressing enriched with briny condiments such as soy. Today’s dishes take inspiration from Asia and the Middle East, for a fresh take on this summer favourite. No one will put these babies in the corner.
Rose-scented watermelon with maftoul, pomegranate molasses and pistachios
Infusing watermelon with rose water is a revelation, but be sparing with it – you want this to be delicately fragrant, rather than perfumed like granny’s bath water. Look out for good-quality brands, such as Cortas.
Prep 20 min
Cook 20 min
500g watermelon, chopped into even, bite-sized pieces
1 tsp good-quality rose water
Sea salt and black pepper
225g maftoul – I love Zaytoun’s
Seeds from 1 pomegranate
50g pistachios, shelled and roughly chopped
1 handful mint, picked torn
1 handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tsp sumac, or to taste
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
60ml extra-virgin olive oil
100g feta, crumbled
Lay the watermelon on a plate and sprinkle the rose water evenly all over it.
Bring a pan of salted water to a roaring boil, drop in the maftoul and cook for about 10 minutes (or according to packet instructions). Drain, rinse and set aside to cool.
Once cool, mix in the pomegranate seeds, pistachios and herbs, then season to taste with sea salt, black pepper and sumac.
Whisk the pomegranate molasses and olive oil, pour over the salad and toss. Crumble over the feta, add the watermelon and mix again before serving.
Charred marinated watermelon poke bowl
This is a vegan spin on a traditional fish poke. Marinating and grilling the watermelon gives it a pleasantly smoky depth of flavour.
Prep 30 min
Chill 4+ hr
Cook 1 hr
400g brown rice
2 avocados, stoned, peeled and sliced
15 radishes, thinly sliced (on a mandoline, ideally)
1 handful crispy shallots, to garnish
Asian micro cress (or picked coriander), to garnish
1 handful torn nori, to garnish
1 handful toasted sesame seeds, to garnish
Togarashi, to finish
For the marinated watermelon
1 baby watermelon, peeled and cut into triangular wedges
2 tbsp tamari
2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp rice vinegar
For the pickled carrots
2 carrots, cut into julienne or spiralised
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp mirin
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp finely grated ginger
Put the watermelon in a large dish. Mix all the ingredients for the marinade, pour over the watermelon, making sure it is evenly distributed, then cover and chill for at least four hours, or overnight.
For the pickled carrots, mix all the ingredients in a bowl, season to taste, then leave to pickle at room temperature for a hour.
Put the rice, 750ml water and a teaspoon of sea salt in a saucepan, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and leave to cook undisturbed for 40 minutes. Take off the heat, leave to steam, still covered, for 10 minutes, then uncover and fluff up the rice with a fork.
Set a griddle pan on a medium heat. Once hot, remove the watermelon wedges from their marinade and grill until caramelised on both sides.
Divide the warm rice between four bowls and top with the watermelon, avocado, radish, and the pickled carrot and its pickling liquid to taste. Scatter with crispy shallots, cress (or coriander), sesame seeds and nori, and season with togarashi.