Stuffed Melon with Chicken and Cashews

Kavun Dolmasi

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Melon has been one of the staples of Anatolian cuisine since Roman times, and was probably first cultivated near what is now eastern Turkey. The Ottoman palace chefs apparently liked the theatre of being able to lift the lid and expose the filling. They adopted the Persian fascination for mixing meat and fruit, and mostly used lamb mince in the stuffing, but I think that’s too heavy for the delicate fruit, so I changed it to chicken.

I like to use Galia melon (developed in Israel in the 1970s) because it’s almost perfectly round, but if you can’t find it, go for rockmelon, and choose the smallest one you can find.

Ingredients

  • 50 g ( oz) craisins (dried cranberries)
  • 2 onions
  • 10 parsley stalks
  • 10 mint stalks
  • 50 ml (12/3 fl oz) vegetable oil
  • 75 g (22/3 oz) almonds
  • 75 g (22/3 oz) cashews
  • 300 g (10½ oz) chicken mince
  • teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Galia melon, rockmelon or honeydew (about 1 kg/2 lb 4 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 50 ml (12/3 fl oz) olive oil

Method

Put the cranberries in a bowl, cover with warm water and leave to soak for 15 minutes. Finely chop the onions. Pick and chop the mint and parsley leaves.

Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan over medium heat, add the onions and cook for 4 minutes. Add the almonds and cashews, and fry for 1 minute. Add the chicken mince and fry for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until the chicken is evenly golden brown. Add 1 teaspoon of the salt and the spices. Drain the cranberries, add to the pan and stir. Remove the pan from the heat.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4).

Slice the cap off the melon, about 2 cm (¾ in) below the top. Scoop out and discard all the seeds. Mix the butter with a pinch of salt and rub inside the cavity. Push in the stuffing mixture. Place the cap back on, secured with two toothpicks. Rub the olive oil all over the outside of the melon and bake for 35 minutes.

Remove the cap and serve the whole melon at the table. Scoop out four servings, or slice into quarters.