I recently bought a melon. I usually don’t buy melons, but that day it seemed like a good idea. It was scorching hot so I felt like eating fruit, they looked pretty perky, piled up into a big melon pyramid, and they were only £1,50. I realise how poor that last argument is, but I am a student and therefore stingy and it seemed like a good opportunity to buy a large quantity of healthy food for little money.
It was a good idea. I had a few slices straight away and I must say it was pretty tasty. However, I couldn’t help feeling slightly disappointed at its character. Some food has character and some food just lacks it. And when I say that food lacks character I don’t mean that it’s not good, I just mean that its flavour is not all that interesting. Aubergines, for instance, have character, as do cherries, and lamb chops. Melon has very little character, just like grapes or chicken breast.
Food from the former category is great by itself or as the centre of a dish. The ones from the latter category need something else to bring out their flavours, to make them shine. For chicken, the tabula rasa of cuisine, the white canvas to the brush of any chef, any spice will do. For grapes a wooden barrel and fermentation usually do the trick. Melon, like other foods with no character, has its own perfect partner: it can be made to shine with ginger and citrus. So here we go, melon salad with ginger syrup.
I’ll give you three versions of this summer dessert. One is basic, the other two are variations to make things yet more interesting.
For four people you shall need:
- one canary melon (you know, the long yellow type)
- juice of one lemon
- juice and zest of one lime
- a slightly heaped tablespoon of demerara sugar
- a chunk of fresh ginger, about an inch in length
For the variations:
- a cm of fresh chili
- two tbsp of dark rum
Slice the melon in parts, take off the skin and chop into bite-sized chunks. Alternatively, if you have one of them funky spoons (I mean a Parisienne scoop, or, as some people apparently call them, a melon baller – I am not making this up), make little balls of melon so that it looks even nicer.
Squeeze the lemon and the lime and remove seeds from the juice, if any made it in there. Peel the ginger and slice it up into thin strips. Add them to the juice. Add a generous tablespoon of the dark sugar and stir until all sugar dissolves. Leave for about half an hour. Then take out the ginger and pour the ginger syrup over the fruit. Put in the fridge, leave to soak up the flavours for about an hour, stir occasionally to make sure all melon gets marinated.
For a spicier version, add about a centimetre’s worth of fresh chili pepper, sliced super finely and with no seeds to the syrup along with the ginger. Be sure to remove the chili when you remove the ginger.
For an alcoholic version, add two tablespoons of dark rum (I used Captain Morgan) to the juice.
Before serving up, decorate the melon salad with zest of one entire lime.