Yotam Ottolenghi's recipe for preserving summer fruits and vegetables

Keep the fruit and vegetables summer and, come fall, you'll still enjoy eggplant in a cake, figs on a giant pancake, and watermelon with spiced chicken.

Yotam Ottolenghi

Salting, salting, fermenting and preserving are just a few of the many ways humanity has learned to extend the shelf life of food. I'm not one to say goodbye in the best of times, so happily this means I never really have to part with my favorite fruits and vegetables; on the contrary, I can enjoy it in a different way. While fresh produce requires minimal effort, the art of preserving makes for bigger, tougher, and funkier flavors. The ingredients get to know each other in whatever controlled environment we put them in and, somehow, they turn into a spoonful of incredible deliciousness. And that, in my opinion, is a definite victory.

Pepper chicken and pickled watermelon salad (top image)

This dish features a variety of things: the salt and spice from the marinated chicken and the sweet and tangy from the pickled watermelon. Store excess pickles in sterile jars in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, and use them for scooping salads or roasts.

  • Preparation 25 min
  • Pickle 12 hours
  • Cook 15 minutes
  • Serve 2 as a snack
  • For watermelon
  • 1.3kg watermelon, skin removed, cut flesh into 2cm cubes (850g)
  • 1 jalapeño pepper (10g), cut into 3mm thick rounds (if you prefer a little more heat, remove and remove the pith and seeds)
  • 170 grams of caster sugar
  • 125 ml of red wine vinegar
  • 2 camomile tea bags
  • 2 tbsp mint leaves
  • Fine sea salt and black pepper

For chickens

  • 2 tsp pepper mix – green, white, red and black, ideally, coarsely ground in a mortar
  • ⅛ tsp Sichuan peppercorns, coarsely ground in a mortar (optional)
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 boneless and skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 shallot banana, peeled and thinly sliced (40g)
  • 45g watercress
  • 1 lime, halved

Place the watermelon chunks, jalapeño, and sugar in a large, sterilized jar, shake gently to coat, then let marinate for 20 minutes. Add the vinegar, tea bag, mint, a teaspoon of salt and 175ml of water and cover with a piece of waxed paper. Close the jar and refrigerate overnight.

Now for the chicken. Combine all the ground pepper in a medium bowl, and set aside a quarter teaspoon of the mixture. Add flour and half a teaspoon of salt to the remaining ground pepper.

Put the oil in a medium skillet over high heat. Tuck each chicken thigh between two sheets of greaseproof paper and use a rolling pin to roll it out until it is ½ cm thick. Coat the chicken with the peppercorn flour mixture, then place one at a time in the hot skillet and fry for three minutes on each side. Transfer the chicken to a board, sprinkle everything with an eighth teaspoon of salt, and let it rest.

Return the skillet to medium-high heat and add 200ml of the watermelon curing liquid; drain 175g pickle solids and set aside. Cook the pickling liquid for five minutes, until it turns orange and syrupy and reduces by four-fifths, then turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, mix together the drained shallots, watercress and pickled watermelon and transfer to a large lipped plate. Cut each chicken thigh obliquely into four wedges and arrange them on top. Scoop over reduced syrup, sprinkle with a quarter teaspoon of the reserved ground pepper and serve with lime halves for squeezing.

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