Giulio's Sicilian Watermelon Pudding
Kicking off our And So To Recipes, where we get different team members to share their favourite recipes, we have our lovely Giulio with his Sicilian watermelon pudding. Easy to make and delicious to eat, it's bursting with summer. Scroll down to see Giulio's recipe, or download it here.
I have recently got back from my holidays in Palermo, the capital of Sicily and, more importantly, my hometown. Temperatures down there were extremely high - on average it was 30-35 degrees, often feeling like 40. More than once during my two-week stay I saw planes and helicopters dropping water on the mountains, where trees and dry leaves sometimes just self-combust because of the heat.
You always get a lot of advice on how to look after yourself and be healthy in such tropical weather, such as drinking plenty of water in order to stay hydrated at all times, avoiding exposure to the sun during the hottest hours and eating loads of fruit and veg. Oh, there's also the suggestion to avoid alcohol when it's really hot, but hey, let's not overreact now!
Among the fruit and vegetables that it's most advisable to consume, melons and their different varieties stand out because of their water content. Watermelon, in particular, is a really watery fruit (as its name gives away) which is found in abundance in Sicily, where it's a symbol of summer. Curious fact: on an island where popular wisdom is a very big deal, there's a ritual involved in choosing your watermelon: you should knock on it. Sounds weird, I know. Traditionally, if what you hear is a hollow sound, that's an indication that the watermelon is ripe; if it sounds like it's 'full' inside, then it's probably best to pick another one.
After performing such a ritual, a few days after my arrival my mum (whom you can see in one of the photos below) decided to make one of the most typical Sicilian summer desserts, usually referred to as 'Gelo di mellone' ('Watermelon pudding'). Because my culinary skills are quite basic (to say the least), I just thought I would help the cause by shadowing my mum in the kitchen and making some notes from this great recipe to then share it with all of you.
The Gelo di mellone recipe has been passed on in my family for generations and I still remember as a kid watching my mum and aunt helping my grandmother to make it. I would occasionally be involved in the process, mostly to collect jasmine flowers from my gran's garden (which soon become another one of those traditions). Soft and refreshing, this watermelon jelly traps the basic flavours of the most typical Sicilian summer. It's also quite easy to make (and if I say so, you can trust me!) and can be served as it is with some sprinkles on top or used in more complex desserts.
So let's see what it's all about.
Giulio's Sicilian Watermelon Pudding
Serves: 6 || Preparation: 20 min || Cooking time: 20 min || Skill level: Easy
- 1 litre of watermelon juice;
- 100-200 grams of sugar (depending on how sweet the juice is or how sweet you like it);
- 100 grams of cornstarch;
- To garnish: dark chocolate chips, jasmine flowers, chopped pistachios.
1. Peel your watermelon and cut it into small chunks. Remember to remove the seeds. Put the chunks in a blender or food processor and blend until you obtain a juice.
2. Pour the watermelon juice into a large pot. Before turning on the hob, add the cornstarch and work it with your hands until it dissolves completely. Using your hands is the simplest way to ensure your mix is rid of lumps. Add the sugar and stir just a little bit.
3. Turn on the hob on medium heat. Keep stirring your mix (it's literally all you have to do at this stage) and bring it to the boil. Usually, your mixture should be almost ready by the time it reaches boiling point. If need be, wait a few more minutes until it has thickened up. This is when my mum performs a 'spoon test' to make sure that the texture of the mix is what it should be. Take some of the mix with a spoon and let it fall back into the pot. Ideally, you should have something similar to a thick gravy, not too liquid but not too solid either.
4. Lay out all sorts of cups, bowls, and boxes to put your mix in, as the tradition requires. Wet them first with just a little water in order to prevent your watermelon jelly to stick to the bottom. Remember, it's important to pour your mixture in these containers when it's still hot and semiliquid, don't let it set in the pot!
5. Leave it to chill in the fridge for at least 4 to 6 hours before serving. For best results, my mum's advice is to let it set overnight and fully enjoy the following day. Before serving, you can indulge in some decor - go wild with sprinkling! You can use anything that comes to mind, but traditionally we would use dark chocolate chips, jasmine flowers (you can see yours truly collecting some in my grandma's garden in the photo) or chopped pistachios. But you can also add cinnamon or whipped cream or whatever tickles your fancy!
Now sit back, relax and let the magic of this simple and traditional recipe take you to the shores of Sicily. Leave a comment below and let us know if you've enjoyed it!
Did you know that...this recipe's really good for prepping in advance too! f you have already blended the watermelon flesh but want to go through the recipe at another time, you can simply pour the juice into plastic bottles and freeze it. This way, when you feel like it, you can just defrost it and get started!
If you'd like to keep Giulio's recipe, it's here to download now.