A week or so ago, as I was still snoozing on a rare Saturday lie in, the Ewing returned from a early morning swim with a 'surprise'. Slightly dubious, as the last surprise had been finding a six foot bay tree at the bottom of my bed, I opened my eyes to find a watermelon the size of a fully grown labrador (although at least this was house trained and didn't try and lick my face).
Weighing about five kilos this thing was a beast. And beautiful too, with it's bright green skin with mint green stripes. There was also a pleasingly dull thump when I tapped it, giving a clue to the sweet, dense flesh within. After some initial bemusement towards my unexpected gift it was time to crack it open and enjoy some watermelon and coffee for breakfast.
I quickly realised we had barely dented the thing and it certainly wasn't going to fit in the fridge, even after carving into huge wedges I was having trouble wedging it in. Time for a bit of lateral thinking.
I had been reading Jacob Kennedy's marvellous Bocca Cookbook the week before and in it he wrote about a watermelon granita. Already a fan of the very easy, impressive crushed ice desserts, I decided to do a bit of experimenting.
Watermelon is a cucurbit, from the same family as cucumber. Although the flesh is sweet there is little of the muskiness you ofter find in other melons, and an underlying grassy freshness too. Cucumber classically pairs with tomato, so why not watermelon? The tomatoes in my garden were just starting to ripen so I decided to try a handful, blended in with the watermelon. Initially I thought about adding basil, but I thought the flavours may be a little too savoury, so instead I tried another of the cucurbit's good friends, fresh mint.
The mint infused sugar syrup gave a little edge that, along with the sweet, grassy melon and slightly metallic, 'meaty' bite from the tomatoes, combined to make a fabulous, summery, flavour combination. You can leave out the tomato if you prefer, maybe adding a little fresh lime juice instead. I've added a shot of vodka to mine, you could easily omit it or, alternatively, combine with more vodka once the granita's made to create an impressive, and very easy frozen cocktail
Watermelon, Tomato and Mint Granita
Half a small watermelon
12 Cherry tomatoes
Pinch of salt
Dash of vodka (optional)
Small bunch of mint
Chop the watermelon flesh into rough chunks and blend along with the whole cherry tomatoes.
Add a pinch of salt, and the vodka if using, then pour mixture through a sieve, collecting juice in a bowl.
Measure liquid and for every half litre of juice add 50g of sugar to a pan, along with a splash of water and a few mint leaves.
Bring sugar mixture to a boil and simmer for a couple of minutes. Allow too cool and remove mint leaves.
Add syrup to juice, place in a shallow container or tray and freeze.
Check mixture every hour or so, breaking up ice crystals with a fork or whisk, until juice has completely frozen into a fluffy slush.
Serve in small glasses for the perfect summer cooler or between course refresher.