This is a great salad for the beach or eating under the verandah or the grapevine arbour on a hot day. It’s a salad to go with lots of conversation, a glass of beer and jugs of home made lemonade.
It is the saltiness of the feta and the sweet juiciness of the watermelon that makes this salad remarkable. It is best served really chilled. Make sure that you use the Greek style feta if you can, not the Danish style which is much creamier and mild. But either will do in a pinch.
The feta can be replaced by other salty cheeses – try halloumi, or cheeses from Turkish, Afghani, Greek or Middle Eastern shops. Try young white cheeses in brine, salty ricotta and ewe’s milk cheeses. Experiment and try different ones until you find the ones that you most enjoy.
The success or failure of all recipes depends on good ingredients, but perhaps this one more than most. The watermelon needs to be sweet and juicy, the feta salty and crumbly, the extra virgin olive oil velvety in texture. Get those right, and it’s sunshine on a plate.
This recipe, as simple as it is, is from Ottolenghi’s book Plenty. The recipe is fairly traditional, though, and can be found online in many locations. We’ve been making our Watermelon and Halloumi Salad, a slight variation, since the 1990’s. Note that I often massage Ottolenghi’s recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry.
Ottolenghi has another recipe for Watermelon and Feta salad in Nopi. It adds marinated olives (make your own or purchase ones marinated in herbs, chilli and lemon) and pickled watermelon rind. You can add these to the salad below if you wish.
Watermelon and Feta Salad
ingredients for approx 4 serves
700g watermelon flesh, well chilled
20g fresh mint and/or basil leaves
½ small white or red onion, very thinly sliced
extra virgin olive oil
Slice the watermelon into wedges, Cut the feta into cubes or long, slim pieces, or just break it by hand into rough chunks.
Arrange all the ingredients except the olive oil on to a serving platter. Drizzle with a little oil, then serve immediately.