Watermelon and feta salad – with marinated olives and preserved lemon

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Two options here; one to make things simpler and the other to make things more complex…this is, after all, Ottolenghi’s cookbook Nopi.

I went the complex route. I made the pickled watermelon rind. This is great as a starter or light lunch. The pickled watermelon rind adds another level of intensity….if you can be bothered.

Serves 4 to 6

1 small watermelon ( 1.6 kg)
Kalamata olices
50ml olive oil
1 medium red chilli, thinly sliced int rounds
1 small garlic clove, skin on and lightly crushed
3 thyme sprigs
1 rosemary sprig
35g preserved lemon skin julienned ( skin from about 2 small preserved lemons)
coarse sea salt and black pepper

TO SERVE

100g feta, lightly crumbled int 1-2 cm chunks
70g pickled watermelon rind, drained ( optional)
15g basil leaves
10g mint leaves

1. Place the olive oil for the olives in a small saucepan on a medium heat with the chilli, garlic, thyme rosemary and preserved lemon, along with 1/4 teaspoon of salt and a grind of black pepper. Warm through gently for 4-5 minutes then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool, then pour over the olives. Set aside until ready to use: they can be used straight away but their flavour will intensify if you keep them marinating for 24 hours before serving.

2. Quarter the watermelon, cut out the red flesh and set the skin – with the white rind attached- aside. Cut each section of red flesh widthways, into 1 cm thick slices then cut each slice into smaller triangles, about 6cm long and 3cm wide. You will need 600g of flesh ( discarding the seed if you like) for the salad, so anything in excess of this can be set aside for snacking.

Pickled rind
200ml cider vinegar
250ml rice vinegar
60g caster sugar
1/2tsp whole cloves
1ps yellow mustard seeds
1 medium cinnamon stick
1 tsp black peppercorns

If pickling the watermelon rind……using a vegetable peeler, shave off the dark green outer skin from the watermelon and discard. You want to leave the firmwhite rind intact, so don’t
shave down too deeply. Use a large sharp knife to cut the watermelon in half and then each half int 3 or 4 wedges. Next slice between the white rind and the red flesh. cut the flesh into 3cm cubes and remove any seeds. Cut the white rind into long thin strips about 4-5cms long and about 3mm thick and set aside.
pour 1 litre of water into a medium saucepan and add 3 tablespoon of salt. Bring to the boil, stir to dissolve the salt, then remove from the heat. Set aside to cool and then pour it over the watermelon rind. Store in the fridge covered for 24 hours . drain the rind rinse it under fresh water and set aside.
Place the cider vinegar, rice vinegar, sugar , cloves, mustard seeds, cinnamon and pepper in a small saucepan with 200ml of water. Bring to the boil, then simmer on a medium heat for 2 minutes, to dissolve the sugar. Set aside to cool and then pour over the rind. Set aside until ready to use. It will be ready to eat after just i hour but you can leave it at the is stage, in a sterilised jar, for months: the longer the rind gets pickled, the softer it will be and the more intense it will taste.

3. When ready to serve, spread the fresh watermelon wedges out on a large platter or individual plates and sprinkle the feta on top, along with the pickled watermelon rind, f using. Spoon over the olive and their marinade, discarding the garlic, rosemary and most of the thyme. Finish with the basil and mint leaves tearing them as you go, along with a couple of sprigs of the thyme and serve at once.

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