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Shud­der-in­duc­ing child­hood mem­o­ries of wa­tery mel­ons are ban­ished with this sum­mer’s glut of per­fumed pro­duce. Bl­itzed with a dash of cit­rus and frozen into a glit­ter­ing sor­bet, it makes a per­fect fi­nale to an end-of-sum­mer feast

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Jeremy Lee Jeremy Lee is the chef­pro­pri­etor of Quo Vadis restau­rant in Lon­don; @jere­myleeqv

Jeremy Lee’s melon sor­bet

There is a scene in the film The Day of The Jackal when Ed­ward Fox, as the Jackal, an as­sas­sin deluxe, cor­rects the sights on his be­spoke ri­fle to shoot a wa­ter­melon. It is his tar­get prac­tice for shoot­ing Pres­i­dent Charles de Gaulle (Adrien Cayla-Le­grand) and it is a scene to make you shud­der (although the pres­i­dent was spared the fate of the wa­ter­melon, un­like the would-be as­sas­sin). I confess to hav­ing an am­biva­lence to­wards wa­ter­mel­ons – bom­bas­tic, blus­ter­ing great gourds that are all show and no tell. But I do quite like the flesh when it is whizzed and poured on to a Cam­pari and soda with lots of ice on a day so hot that only an ocean of fruit and juice will keep one from ex­pir­ing ...

I was am­biva­lent also to the scent­free mel­ons of my youth – brightyel­low, mis­sile-shaped num­bers that ap­peared at Christ­mas, which held more wa­ter than a gut­ter in the rain, and less flavour than the vaguest whiff of fruit. They were the stuff of ho­tel buf­fets, mak­ing a sad ap­pear­ance along­side crum­pled slices of parma ham pulled from a tin. It has to be said, if a lack­lus­tre ap­ple is dis­ap­point­ing then an un­ripe, taste­less, wa­tery melon is a source of ab­ject mis­ery.

Melon suf­fered the way of the avocado and cour­gette back then. Folk got away with crim­i­nal acts against fruits. Qual­ity and flavour were dirty words spo­ken in hushed terms. (That said, it is re­as­sur­ing that a melon – de­spite its abun­dant avail­abil­ity year-round – is rarely seen en­robed in plas­tic with a highly sus­pect shelf life.) Although I had eaten melon many times be­fore, I did not taste My First Melon un­til I was 11, while on hol­i­day in France. Ah, those mar­kets. You smelt them be­fore you saw them, the air heady with peaches, basil, toma­toes and that most per­fumed pro­duce of all ... mel­ons. This was an early les­son in shop­ping. Buy it when it’s good.

Melon is best in the sum­mer, when it has feasted on sun­shine and is done to a turn on the vine. They need warmth and be­come mar­vel­lous with good hus­bandry. Sup­pli­ers speak in rev­er­ent tones when talk­ing of mel­ons. There are many sto­ries; Gil­lian Ri­ley’s won­der­ful Ox­ford Com­pan­ion to Ital­ian Food tells the tale of the em­peror Dec­imus Clodius Al­bi­nus (quite Hog­wart’s, that name … ) who, it is said, at one sit­ting ate 100 peaches from Cam­pa­nia and topped them off with 10 mel­ons from Os­tia. Pope Paul II is said to have died of apoplexy in 1471 from a sur­feit of mel­ons.

The recipe today is swiftly done, re­quir­ing only a few things to make a mar­vel­lous sor­bet. So few in­gre­di­ents means there is no ex­cuse but to buy the best mel­ons. I urge you to­wards can­teloupe – the gnarled and veined green-skinned va­ri­ety with beau­ti­ful

or­ange flesh within. We also use two va­ri­eties stocked by Na­toora (avail­able through Ocado) – the Sun Sweet and Honey Moon (very Ian Flem­ing!). If you can’t find them try any can­taloupe, charentais, or an old friend, Galia Melon. Need­less to say, the riper the melon, the bet­ter the sor­bet. A jig­ger of Cam­pari or a splash of vodka poured on top is a wel­come ad­di­tion.

Melon sor­bet Serves 6

A melon or two weigh­ing about 1kg, ren­der­ing about 800g flesh

The juice of 2 lemons

The juice of 3 or­anges

350g ic­ing su­gar

1 Quar­ter the melon. Re­move the seeds. Should the melon be truly ripened, it is usu­ally worth­while putting the seeds into a sieve and, us­ing a la­dle, push­ing through any melon juice re­main­ing. Cut the flesh from the skin. Chop the flesh and blitz with any melon juice ac­crued. Add the lemon and or­ange juices along with the ic­ing su­gar. Blend un­til very smooth. Pour through a sieve and push through once more with a la­dle.

2 Pour the sor­bet into an ice-cream churner and fol­low the maker’s in­struc­tions. One can achieve a sim­i­lar re­sult by putting it in a bowl in the freezer and whisk­ing ev­ery 10 min­utes un­til frozen.

Ah, those mar­kets. You smelt them be­fore you saw them, the air heady with that most per­fumed pro­duce of all ... mel­ons

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