Food: Watermelon and Cucumber Curry

Ah, watermelons and cucumbers. The two quintessential summer fruits – or fruit and vegetable if you are a chef and not a botanist. They are juicy, cooling, and delicious in so many things. And by things, I do include curry.

I was given a full-sized watermelon upon my recent housewarming party by my well-meaning mother. Unfortunately, she forgot how hard it is to get through a whole watermelon as a single person without either binging or having it go bad. Fortunately for me, I’m not averse to making unusual yet delicious foods – and the idea of watermelon curry was too good to dismiss!

Because of the size of the watermelon, I am making a monster-sized batch to freeze for later. I’m including a scaled down ingredient list at the end in case you aren’t in the same need of getting rid of your watermelon, but the steps are essentially the same, with the exception of adding a second batch of fruits and veggies into the juice before cooking.

Ingredients 

  • 1 watermelon
  • 1 1/2 or 2 cucumbers
  • 2 onions
  • 8 tsp of turmeric powder
  • 6 tsp of ground ginger and garlic (or 3 tsp each of ground raw ginger and minced or ground garlic)
    A large mixing bowl filled with a mixture of watermelon, juice, turmeric, onions, and cucumber chunks.
    Mixing the curry.

Get out a large mixing bowl. Into it goes 1/4 of a watermelon, in small chunks. Mash this portion into juicy delicious pulp. Add half a cucumber, peeled and sliced on the thin side – it doesn’t have to be paper thin, but the thick chunks are for later. Mash this a little to get the juices out, but not enough to pulverize it. Add another 1/4th of the watermelon in large (up to 1 inch) chunks, squeezing slightly if the juice isn’t very productive. Stir thoroughly.

Once you’ve stirred the juice and fruit mixture, push some of the fruit aside so that you have access to a puddle of the juice. To this, add the turmeric and the ginger garlic. With this, you need to be very thorough when you mix it. I actually used my hands to make sure that it was evenly mixed in. Nothing worse than getting a bite of *just* turmeric, which can be bitter and medical tasting on its own – the turmeric tincture that I take in the winter for my joints is one of the most vile tasting substances I’ve ever tasted if I shoot it straight, and that’s not the alcohol.

Pro tip though: turmeric can stain things, so you may wish to wear gloves and to avoid spills. Otherwise you end up with a nice bright yellow everywhere. While that’s cool if you are naturally dying things, it can be a HUGE pain.

Once you are satisfied, let it marinate for several hours. Then, scoop out the vegetable and fruit flesh and drain it, keeping the juices in the mixing bowl. Add to it the other half of the watermelon, in large chunks, and a whole cucumber in medium sized slices. Do not mash – you already have plenty of juices, and too much juice will increase the time at the oven. Try to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed again, and cover with juices if possible.  Again, let this batch marinate for several hours.

A pan sits on the stove. Inside of it, watermelon curry is cooking.
I used a heat defuser to help with the “big pan, smaller burner” issue.

Once you are done marinating things – and depending on the size of your bowl, you may need to do this in multiple batches – it is time to cook. First, drain off the juices into a wide sauce pan. Put this on medium, and allow to cook down 1/3-1/4th to taste. If you don’t, it turns out watery and is often not as satisfying.

Add the vegetable and fruit mixture to the pan in amounts so that a layer of moderate thickness is involved. Cook until the onions are starting to get soft. If you cook it too long, the cucumbers lose their integrity and the watermelon begins to look and feel a bit pathetic. Strain the juices back into the pan after each batch of cooking.

This can be served alone or over rice or noodles. When you serve it, ladle some of the juices over each serving. It should come out refreshingly light but just filling enough to be satisfying. It is important not to have too much of the turmeric – I had 12 tsp instead of 8 tsp in my initial test batch, and it was just a little too strong to let the watermelon shine in servings with smaller chunks. Interestingly, the cucumber flavor was still identifiable. The larger chunks of watermelon tend to retain their taste better than smaller chunks.

This recipe makes quite a large batch; I have enough in my fridge to last me at least a week. Below I have a scaled down ingredients list for those not in as great a hurry to use up a watermelon. Feel free to try variations on the recipe – less onion, adding lime juice, shifting or adding spices – and let us know how it turns out!

Smaller batch sized ingredient list

  • 1/4 watermelon
  • 1/2-1  cucumber
  • 1/2 onions
  • 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp of ground ginger garlic paste (or 3/4 tsp each of ground raw ginger and minced or ground garlic)
A plate of watermelon curry and a glass tea cup of hard cider rest on a butcher's block table.
Done, and served with hard cider in a tea cup. Because I’m femme like that.

Makes 5-6 servings, but many people will find that the execution of their servings comes out to 2-4 servings per small batch if served by itself rather than over something. This recipe is wheat-gluten free, corn product free, dairy & casein free, and vegan as written, though obviously the way you serve it could impact that.

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Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone

Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone. Advocate, Writer, Geek. Multiply Disabled, Queer, and proudly Autistic. Primary Obsession: Institutions, History of Care of people with MH/DDs Also obsessed with: Social Justice, Cats, Victorian Romanticism, and Doctor Who. http://crackedmirrorinshalott.wordpress.com/

One thought on “Food: Watermelon and Cucumber Curry”

  1. This was really interesting – it’s never occurred to me that you can cook watermelon! What’s it like, after it’s cooked? Does the texture change? I’ve really fallen hard for watermelon in savory preparations this summer, so I’d love to try this, but mushy watermelon is a great nemesis of mine.

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