24 Jun melon, basil + blackberry salad
Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, but wisdom is knowing not to put it in a fruit salad. It’s true that not all fruits can make the savoury to sweet cross-over, but melon is not one of those fruits.
Melon and ham have been partners in sweet and savoury for aeons. This classic Italian pairing makes the best of two native ingredients; the cured meat and the sweet melon. Purists will say that using honeydew melon here is a travesty, and that only the orange cantaloupe will do. But I think honeydew works really well, especially in this case with the contrasting flavours of blackberry and basil.
I have always enjoyed a plate of melon and ham, but I wanted to spruce it up a bit from its overdone incarnation of cubes of melon wrapped in Parma on a cocktail stick. What flavours could I add to elevate this great partnership? The basil and blackberry combination was an idea I got from a recipe in the Australian food magazine, Gourmet Food Traveller (gourmettraveller.com.au), which has a really good website with some tantalizing recipes. They’re especially good at offering salads as stand-alone suppers, which is what I wanted to achieve with this savoury fruit salad.
This makes for a perfect light supper on a summer evening, preferably eaten outdoors. It also makes for a lovely starter for a mid-summer’s meal, if you’re looking for an updated version of a classic appetizer. When I first made this, it was for a mid-week supper, and I liked it so much it reappeared at the outset of my next sit-down meal.
Melon, Basil and Blackberry Salad
For the basil oil
Handful of fresh basil
2 tablespoons of olive or rapeseed oil
1 tablespoon of runny honey
For the melon salad
Half a honey melon
10 fresh blackberries
6 slices of good quality Parma ham
Good quality crusty bread, to serve
- Pick the leaves from the basil and place in a food processor.
- Add the olive oil and blitz until the basil is completely shredded.
- Add the honey to the mix, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper and blitz again. Transfer to a serving bowl. If you don’t have a food processor, you can make this sweet basil oil in a pestle and mortar by bashing the basil and the oil together until combined, and then adding the honey, salt and pepper.
- Peel and de-seed the honey melon. Cut into thin wedges. Arrange between two serving plates.
- Divide the blackberries between the two serving plates.
- Arrange the slices of Parma ham on the plates.
- Drizzle the plates with the sweet basil oil, and add an extra crack of fresh black pepper to the plate.
- Serve with hunks of crusty bread on the side, for mopping up the basil oil.
Kitchen Essential: A Food Processor
I invested in a Mini Magimix last year, which I like because it’s good quality but also doesn’t take up too much of my surface space. For years before that, I had a generic model from Argos that cost about €30 and served me very well.
This recipe first appeared in The Irish Independent on 23rd of June