Watermelon, mint and basil are all at their peak this month and Nina and Renny Desira who cultivate all sorts of varieties of unusual and common herbs in Zejtun shared many of their methods with me of mint and basil preservation for the winter when they are no longer so abundant. Nina picks fresh mint early in the morning and removes any damaged leaves and tough stems. She rinses the leaves well and pats them dry with a kitchen towel. She then chops them up and places two teaspoons in each compartment of an ice cube tray, tops it off with water and freezes it. When the ice cubes solidify, she stores them in an air tight freezer bag in the freezer and then adds cubes to soups, teas and dressings in the winter.
For the watermelon and feta starter you will need:
Half a watermelon cut up into even slices, deseeded and peeled
300g feta cheese
A handful of mint leaves, a spoonful chopped
Olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice
Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
A round cutter
Mash up the feta cheese, add some pepper and a spoon of chopped fresh mint. Mix until consistent.
Place in a flat dish and spread to a thickness of 2cm
Use a cutter to cut a round of water melon. Without removing the watermelon disc from the cutter, use the cutter again to cut through a layer of feta cheese. push the watermelon dish out of the cutter gently so that you have two layers, the bottom feta layer topped with a disc of watermelon. Use a squeeze of lemon juice and olive oil as a dressing and garnish the plate with some fancy lettuce leaves.
And i learnt something new during my trip, that these delicate white flowers that we have in our garden are edible garlic chives or Chinese chives [Allium tuberosum, gau choy Chinese 韭菜; Japanese nira]. I will have to find a suitable recipe to try them out!