Friday, 9 July 2010
Melon Seed Horchata
I have been tidying my house today. It's been a bit of a mammoth undertaking. The bathrooms still need scrubbing and the kitchen floor needs doing and there's laundry all over the living room, but it's better than it was. I don't feel like I'm living in such a pit. Of course, there are still some exploding sacks of clothes belonging to a brother and his girlfriend stuffed into a corner and more bedding than can be shaken at with a stick on one of the beds, but it's tidier. I even re-filed my cookery books and sorted out the wheat of elderly bank statements from the chaff of envelopes. I haven't hoovered; I HAVE made horchata. Not the rice based cinnamon flavoured stuff I had in San Francisco, which was delicious, but something identifiably from the same family. I bought a melon yesterday. I'm currently very very poor, due to a small amount of miscalculation and the impulse purchase of a corset, so any fruit I buy has to be vetted carefully and on offer before I shell out, and the eating of it has to be planned such that I eat it when it's perfect not wasting anything.
I've been wanting to play some more with my new cookery book ever since I got back; something about the amazing weather in south east England at the moment. And I had a melon. At the back of the book is a very simple recipe for melon seed horchata, that neatly takes in my need for a cool drink, my adoration of melons and my reluctance to waste the smallest part of a beautifully ripe piece of fruit. All you do is lift out the seeds and pulp from the middle as you would ordinarily, but for each cup of fruit add an equal volume of water, 1½ tablespoons of sugar and 1½ teaspoons of lime juice. You then blend the mixture until it's as fine as can reasonably achieved in a home machine and leave the lot to muddle in the fridge for half an hour. Then you strain it (ideally through muslin), add ice and enjoy. If you really wanted to, I suspect it would be fantastic with a shot of tequila. It has a great texture, a little like coconut milk in its smoothness but with a wonderful aroma of melon.
One or two things: my one ordinary sized galia melon made 1 cup of horchata, which isn't much. Use more melons, or possibly freeze the pulp until you have enough for a sensible amount. It also had a slightly bitter aftertaste. I'm debating what is likely to have caused this and have several thoughts, the most likely being that it sat longer than half an hour in the fridge and various tannin-type things might have leached out of the seeds. I also didn't use the melon variety specified by the recipe, which was cantaloupe. The stripy orange fleshed melons, iconic to me of holidays in France when I was a child, are by far my favourite variety (though I love all of them), but it's very hard to get decent ones in England. I bought one in San Francisco, seduced by the unbelievable scent as I walked past them. The ones in Tescos yesterday smelled of cardboard. Even carried carefully home and placed gently on the windowsill for a few days, they would never emit that amazing Mediterranean perfume. So. I didn't buy one. I bought the only galia I could find that smelled of flowers, and left it in the sun all day. It is a pretty good piece of fruit. I am not sure whether the seeds are likely to be much different between the two varieties, but it's certainly possible that one will produce a slightly less bitter drink than the other. I shall be hoarding melon seeds for as long as they're on offer, and trying out different varieties - everything with the pale yellow, thin skinned seeds has got to be worth a go, but I think that it's probably not worth bothering with watermelon. Better to puree the flesh in that case and drink that (definitely with lime and tequila, in that case...).