Watermelon Salad with Feta and Piment d’Espelette

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I love watermelon so much I once finished a 9kg watermelon by myself over the course of a single weekend. Of course that was to prove a point. I was barely into my teens, it was summer time and hot and those huge watermelons at the Turkish greengrocer looked incredibly appealing. And yet my parents did not want to buy one, arguing it would only go bad before I would manage to finish it (since I was the only family member who actually liked watermelon). But I persisted and so this huge watermelon, so large and heavy I could barely carry it myself, came home with us. And finish it I did. Even if I think I ate or drank little else that weekend besides gorging myself on that watermelon.

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So my love for watermelon runs deep. So deep, my friend Verena once gifted me a T-shirt with sequinned watermelon slices on it. I have also received several birthday cards featuring watermelons. And a friend once apologised to me profoundly for not yet making me a watermelon birthday cake (apparently that is a thing). And yet I have also noticed that after a certain age an undying love for watermelon stops being largely cute and becomes a bit odd. Apparently grown women are not meant to go nuts for watermelon. I don’t really care. I still get my watermelon fix. Especially now that you can buy smaller varieties (I don’t think I will ever manage to finish a 9kg watermelon by myself ever again).

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That being said, I am also glad I discovered there are other ways to enjoy watermelon besides eating them bent over the sink, watermelon juice running down your chin and arms. Be it the ice cold watermelon smoothies enjoyed beachside in Thailand or indeed this watermelon and feta salad, one of my favourite things to make with watermelon and   a frequent guest at my dinner table during the summer months (apparently I did need an excuse for eating half a watermelon and calling it dinner).

The idea comes from my friend Verena who introduced me to the idea of combining watermelon with a salty cheese, some chili and fresh herbs when we were living together in London. I think her version had fresh chili and mint but over the years I have discovered that you can also use dried chili and other herbs such a s basil or coriander. And you can also use a different cheese, as long as it is nice and salty. Freshly grilled halloumi would be lovely I think, adding a further contrast in terms of temperature.

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Watermelon salad with Feta and Piment d’Espelette

Note: How much or how little you should make of this will depend on how you are going to serve this salad. If as a simple summer lunch or dinner, count ca. 100g of feta per person and ca. 1/2 a small watermelon (or enough to generously pile on top of a large dinner plate), plus a handful of chopped coriander. If you are serving this as part of a potluck, maybe as part of a spread of sides for a barbecue, then you can easily reduce the quantities per person. If so, I would suggest using 400g of feta and a medium-sized watermelon (those that weigh around 4-5kg). The measurements given below are for 2 people as a simple summer lunch or dinner, maybe with some bread on the side and a glass of rose to wash it all down, since that is how I eat this salad most frequently.

Ingredients

1 small watermelon, rind removed and cut into bite sized cubes
200g feta, crumbled
1 handful of chopped fresh coriander
2 tbsp olive oil
Piment d’Espelette to taste (or your favourite chilli powder, pul biber is nice too, or Japanese Shishimi Togarashi)
Salt to taste

Directions

Arrange the cubed watermelon in a bowl or on a large serving plate. Evenly scatter over the crumbled feta and chopped coriander.

To finish, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with Piment d’Espelette and salt to taste.

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