Yes, watermelon, of all things.
Crisp cubes of it, as well as its own bright pinky-red juice.
“Watermelon and Seafood Curry” is from “Full of Flavor” (Kyle Books), of which I received a review copy. It’s by Chef Maria Elia of Joe’s in London who has a way with unexpected flavor combinations such as with her “Blueberry and Coffee Muffins” and “Jerusalem Artichoke and Chestnut Soup with Chorizo and Apple.”
Of course, with summer watermelon in abundance, it was the curry recipe that really intrigued me. Sure, I’d enjoyed my share of watermelon just eaten out of hand in big cold wedges. And I’d eaten plenty of watermelon salads accented with salty feta or pops of chiles. But in a warm seafood stew? This was a new one.
The base of the broth is watermelon juice that is cooked down on the stovetop to concentrate its flavor. You think it’s going to be way too sweet, but not after you add in ginger, lemongrass, garlic, turmeric, coriander, cumin and chiles, as well as fresh lime juice and fish sauce.
Squid cooks up in mere minutes in a saute pan, and is added to the broth, along with cooked crab meat. Garnish with chopped cilantro and cubes of watermelon, and you are done before you know it.
You can definitely taste the fruity sweetness of the watermelon. But you also get hits of earthiness, saltiness, tang and spice — the hallmarks of fine Asian cooking. It’s a far more complex tasting dish than you’d ever expect.
Make some plain steamed rice to spoon into a brothy bowl at will, if you like.
Elia writes that this is one of her most-talked-about recipes in the book. One taste and it’s easy to understand why.
Watermelon and Seafood Curry
4 1/2 pound watermelon (the seedless variety works best), rind and seeds removed
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoons fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 red chile, seeded and finely chopped
1 lemongrass stick, finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 pound and 2 ounces cleaned squid, sliced into rings
Sea salt and black pepper
3 1/2 ounces meat from crab claws
1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
Dash of dish sauce, to taste
Juice of 1 – 1 1/2 limes, to taste
To make the curry, liquefy 3 1/2 pounds of the watermelon in a blender or food processor until smooth. Cut the remaining watermelon into 1/2-inch cubes and set aside.
Heat half of the oil in a large frying pan. When hot, gently cook the onion, ginger and garlic until soft. Add chile, lemongrass, and spices and cook for another minute. Add the liquified watermelon, bring to a boil, then simmer until reduced by half. This should take about 20-30 minutes.
To prepare the seafood, heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan. Season the squid with salt and pepper and cook in two batches over high heat for 3 minutes per batch. Set aside.
Once the curry has reduced, add the squid, crab, cilantro and the diced watermelon that you set aside and gently heat through. Add fish sauce and lime juice to taste — the curry should be hot, sweet, and sour. Serve immediately.
From “Full of Flavor”
Another Surprising Recipe with Melon: Cantaloupe Cake
Another Watermelon Dish: Cured Watermelon Crudo