Twisting my melon

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 April, 2012, 12:00am


When it's good, cantaloupe can be a wonderful thing - juicy and sweet, but with a touch of acidity to prevent it from tasting saccharine. Too often, though, you take a cantaloupe home, cut into it and even without tasting it, you know it's a bad one. Not bad as in 'off' but bad in that it's hard and dry, with just a hint of the flavour it would have had when ripe.

The cantaloupe is distinctive for its textured, pale-green exterior, which looks as if it's been wrapped tightly in beige-coloured rough netting. The soft green shell gives way to pale orange flesh, with a large cavity full of seeds. It's not easy to choose a ripe one, especially if they've been chilled; the cold mutes their scent, so sniffing it won't necessarily give you an indication that it's ready to eat. Try pressing on the stem end; it should be slightly soft.

With a ripe melon, all you need for pure enjoyment is a spoon to scoop the flesh from the shell. There's also the classic Italian dish of prosciutto and melon, where the salty, thin slices of cured ham balance the sweetness of the cantaloupe.

An unripe melon needs help to bring out its deliciousness. Chilled melon soup is easy: just peel the cantaloupe and scoop out the seeds, then puree the flesh with some sugar syrup (sugar dissolved in an equal weight of water), fresh lemon juice, a few mint leaves and a shot of Cointreau. Strain the mixture through a sieve then chill. When ready to serve, pour it into shallow bowls, garnish with fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and whole mint leaves, then serve.