Fleshly desires: Skye Gyngell's refreshing watermelon recipes

Watermelons are one of the most refreshing fruits on a warm day, eaten just as they are, sliced into large half-moons. But there are many simple things that can be done with them, too – turned into sorbets or a refreshing jug of thirst-quenching juice, they are a welcome change. Surprisingly, perhaps, they also work well with some savoury things. A salad of creamy sharp and salty feta, drizzled with a little extra-virgin olive oil with one or two good-quality black olives thrown on top, for instance, is a lovely lunchtime salad, and I think the combination of pigeon squab and watermelon with sweet and hot sauce is also rather nice.

Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627, petershamnurseries.com

Watermelon and squab salad

Serves 6

3 squab
1 tbsp neutral-tasting oil such as corn oil
Sea salt
110g/3 oz watermelon per person, seeds removed and cut into rough chunks
1 bunch pak choi (1 head per person)

For the sweet chilli sauce

1 cup/225g/7 oz caster sugar
1 cup/240ml/7¾fl oz water
1 cup/240ml/7¾fl oz good-quality white-wine vinegar
1 cup/225g/7 oz chopped red chillies with seeds
A good pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas6, then start making the chilli sauce. This recipe will make more than you need, but can be used with all sorts of things. Place the sugar, water and vinegar into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat slightly and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the chillies and salt. Allow to cool. It can be kept in the fridge for 2-3 days.

Now blanch the pak choi in boiling, well-salted water for 2 minutes then drain and refresh.

Rub the skin of the squab with oil and season with the salt. Place in a roasting tray on the middle shelf of the oven and roast for 12 minutes, remove and rest for 10 minutes. Slice the meat and arrange on a large plate along with the watermelon and pak choi. Spoon over the chilli sauce and serve.

Watermelon granita

Granita is similar to sorbet, except it is not churned in an ice-cream maker. Rather it is chilled in the freezer, and periodically a fork is dragged through the areas that are frozen until what you have are crystal-like granules that are crunchy and sticky. It is a lovely way to use really ripe summer fruit.

Makes 8 portions

watermelon, seeds and white pith removed
1 punnet of ripe English strawberries
1 tsp sea salt
1 cup/240ml/7¾fl oz water
1 cup/225g/7 oz caster sugar
1 tbsp rose water

Chop the watermelon into small pieces, removing the seeds as you do so. Hull and roughly chop the strawberries. Place both fruits along with salt into a blender and purée until smooth.

Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil then turn down and cook for 3 minutes before removing from the heat and allowing to cool completely.

Once the sugar syrup has cooled, stir it into the fruit juice along with the rose water. Pour into a roasting tray and place in the freezer.

Chill for half an hour and then drag a fork through the ice, working outside in – the outside will begin to freeze before the centre of the dish. Continue to do this every half-hour until you have a set ice that is crystalline and rough in texture. Serve in chilled glasses.

Watermelon juice

Makes 3 pint jugs

1 watermelon
1 cup/225g/7 oz sugar
1 cup/240ml/7¾fl oz water
The juice of one lime

Slice the watermelon in half and scoop out the flesh, removing the seeds as you do so. Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan and place over a low to medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

While the syrup is cooling, purée the watermelon in a blender or food processor until the fruit is smooth and strain through a sieve into a bowl. Stir in the syrup thoroughly and add the juice of the lime. Serve with plenty of ice – it is a drink that should be served well chilled.

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