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Cucumber & watermelon ginaigrette salad from The Joy of Better Cooking

Servings: 4
This recipe is a study in how to build a salad, using a variety of shapes to create texture (see Skills spotlight), a tonal palette of complementary pinks, greens and deep purples to please the eye, and salty–sweet flavours that make every bite a blast. It’s also easily doubled if feeding a crowd; the only thing you don’t have to double is the pickling liquid quantity. I love sidling this salad along as a bring-a-plate, because it’s sure to get people chatting, and I’ll pack the giniagrette separately in a little jar for tossing through when we’re all set to serve. If you get there and see a few Greek-ish-looking salads already, you can always leave the watermelon separate and serve it as a welcome treat before dessert. No-one ever says no to watermelon.


  • 1 bunch of radishes trimmed and thinly sliced
  • ½ medium-sized watermelon (about 3 cups flesh) cubed or scooped with a melon baller
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 small red onion thinly sliced
  • 2 Lebanese (short) cucumbers thinly sliced
  • 100 g 3½ oz kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • a pinch of chilli flakes optional
  • 100 g (3½ oz) mild creamy feta
  • good-quality olive oil for drizzling


  • 5 mint sprigs leaves picked, stalks reserved
  • 3 dill sprigs fronds picked, stalks reserved
  • 3 parsley sprigs leaves picked, stalks reserved
  • 50 ml (1½ fl oz) white wine vinegar
  • 50 ml (1½ fl oz) gin
  • cup (75 g) sugar
  • 2 tsp salt


  • Plunge the radishes into a bowl of cold water, to refresh and crisp.
  • Scoop the watermelon with a melon baller (retro!), or cut into wedges, slicing the flesh off the rind, then chop into fork-sized chunks. Pop these in the fridge while you make the rest of your salad.
  • Zest the lemon, reserving the zest. Segment the flesh by slicing off the skin and pith, and cutting into each segment at a 45-degree angle to form wedges. Keep the remaining carcass of the citrus to squeeze over the salad. (You’ll find more info on segmenting citrus on page 41.)
  • To make the ginaigrette, place the mint, dill and parsley stalks in a small saucepan with the vinegar, gin, sugar, salt and 50 ml (1½ fl oz) water. Bring to the boil, cooking for 4–5 minutes, until the booze stops stinging your eyeballs and the liquid reduces a little.
  • Pop the onion slices in a jar, strain the ginaigrette over them and leave to pickle for at least 15 minutes. There’s no need to pop a lid on top, unless you’re planning on taking this with you for drizzling at a party.
  • To serve, drain and thoroughly dry the radish wedges. Assemble the cucumber, watermelon and radish in a serving bowl. Add most of the reserved herb fronds from the ginaigrette, together with the olives, lemon segments and chilli flakes, if using. Crumble or cube the feta into fork-sized chunks and scatter over the top. Toss gently to combine, so the feta doesn’t start collapsing.
  • Garnish with the remaining herbs and pickled onion. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of the pickling liquid and olive oil, then crack over some black pepper to finish.


Keep the watermelon separate if making this ahead. Watermelon will turn all salads — whether leafy or fruity — to mush. To make this party last a little longer, try using honeydew melon instead, as it will keep its shape better, but won’t be quite as sweet.
If you’re not much of a drinker, buy a baby bottle of booze. Instead of gin, vodka will hit the spot, or even ouzo if you want to be true to the salad’s Greek roots, adding a delightful anise note to the dressing. You can also just hold the booze and make the pickling liquid with an extra 50 ml (1½ fl oz) white wine vinegar instead.

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