Watermelon and Feta Salad

Karpuz Salatasi

banner

European writers in the seventeenth century associated stuffed watermelons (under the name ‘Turkish pumpkins’) with the luxurious life of the Ottoman emperors, although the watermelon had originated in southern Africa and seems to have arrived in Turkey with Arab traders. Nowadays, the biggest watermelons in the world are grown on the banks of the Tigris River, in a region called Diyarbakır. The ‘First International Traditional Watermelon Festival’ was held there in 2012. In 2013, they changed the name of the event to the ‘Diyarbakır Culture and Watermelon Festival’. I met a grower named Adil Aydan, who proudly displayed a watermelon weighing 49.5 kilos (110 lb). Asked who would need a watermelon that size, he replied: ‘In my area, we have big families.’

Ingredients

  • ¼ watermelon, about 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz)
  • 400 g (14 oz) feta (mild and creamy)
  • 1 piece mastic crystal (less than 1 g/1/25 oz) (or 1 teaspoon mastic liqueur or Sambuca)
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 20 purslane (or baby rocket/arugula) leaves
  • 20 mint leaves

Method

Skin and seed the half watermelon and cut it into 2 cm (¾ in) cubes. Keep the seeping juices in a bowl to add to the dressing. Cut the feta into 2 cm (¾ in) cubes. Put the mastic in a bowl and crush with the watermelon juice. Add the vinegar, olive oil and lemon juice and mix well.

Toss the watermelon, feta, purslane and mint together in a salad bowl and drizzle over the dressing. Serve with grilled fish or sardine ‘birds’.