Gelo di melone
I still get the shivers thinking about the food of my 70s British childhood. Knowing now that the entire country (apart from Margot and Gerry Leadbetter) was skint, doesn’t take the edge off some of the horrors that found their way out of our suburban kitchen and onto the dining room table. None of this was helped either by my mother’s self-confessed inability to cook. So there was lots of grilled liver, boiled mince and beef cuts that may as well have been cow hide. Puddings at least offered some form of respite, mum could throw together a decent crumble or rice pudding, and there was always the rare decadence of a butterscotch angel delight. Some days though, the fates would conspire against me, and pudding would be a milk jelly a lesson in how ruin a perfectly good thing
Jelly (any flavour), Milk (a pint)
Dissolve the jelly in some hot water. Add milk. Leave to set. Regret
So why start reminiscing about rogue puddings, when I’m supposed to be talking about a melon jelly?
Well, it’s because, when first described to me, I had a panic attack flash back to my childhood and visions of that bowl of cloudy blandness. A wonderful jelly ruined by good intentions.
Gelo di melone is a set jelly made from watermelon. Its similarity to milk jelly ends there. For one, it’s not a jelly. There is no gelatine, the effect is obtained by cornflour. It’s a cloudy blush red, with added chocolate and pistachios. It is delicate, grown-up, reserved for the hottest of hot days in July and August. You can buy it in little plastic cups from Pasticceria Cappello on Via Colonna Rotta in Palermo, or you can make it yourself, which is probably easier for non-Palermitans.
One small watermelon (you’re aiming for around a litre of juice)
100g caster sugar
Chopped dark chocolate
Take your water melon, peel and blitz it. Don’t worry about the seeds, you sieve the pulp to get the juice.
Now add the sugar
If you’re feeling very romantic, you can make a chain of Jasmine flowers by threading them onto cotton and add them (or use a small hint of jasmine essence, if you’re feeling less prosaic).
Now add the cornflour, premixed into a paste with a little of the juice.
Put the pan on the hob on a medium heat and start to cook – stirring, stirring, stirring.
Don’t stop stirring and don’t let anything stick to the bottom of the pan.
Alchemy happens – suddenly, in a few short seconds, the whole thing will condense into a thick, opaque, sputtering, camp essence of pinkness.
Cook for a little longer. Don’t stop stirring.
Decant into your chosen serving dishes (individual little glasses work well) and leave to cool.
It’ll set slowly into a firm wobbly not-jelly.
Just before you serve it sprinkle chopped dark chocolate (it’s supposed to resemble the seeds that you sieved out earlier) and green pistachio nibs (because it’s Sicilian, and pistachios are ubiquitous). No one you give this to is likely to have ever tasted anything like it in their lives, they will thank you profusely.