This is a deliciously aromatic and cooling summer dessert. There’s an Asian element to it with its almost slippery soup likeness yet the flavours combine to give you a taste almost like bubble gum. This is a particular favourite of mine.
- 200 g caster sugar
- 300 ml water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 vanilla pod, split and scraped
- ½ tsp river salt
- 2 fresh bay leaves
- ½ cup lemon verbena leaves
- ½ tsp rosewater
- 80 g small sago (see Note)
- 260 g watermelon balls
- 100 g rockmelon balls
- 100 g honeydew melon balls
- 1 lemon, rind finely zested
- pouring cream, for serving
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Chilling time: overnight
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and give it a stir, making sure to wash away any sugar that has crept up the side of the pan. Place on a medium heat and bring to the boil. Once it comes up, add in the cinnamon, vanilla, bay, lemon verbena and salt and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature. Once it has cooled, mix in the rosewater, transfer to a large container and set aside.
Get another medium-sized saucepan of slightly salted water onto the boil. Once it is boiling, rinse your sago and whisk it into the water. You do actually need more water than you would expect to allow it to cook properly. Boil the sago for about 5-10 minutes or until it becomes completely translucent.
Strain the sago through a fine strainer and rinse again under cold water until it’s cool. Add the sago to your sugar syrup (making sure your syrup is no longer warm at all). This can be tricky to manoeuvre as it all gets a little sticky.
Add all your melon balls and reserved juices to the sugar and sago mix, give it a gentle stir and transfer the mix to the fridge to sit overnight.
When you are ready to serve, pull the melon mix from the fridge, add in the zest, give it another stir and then scoop out the balls into serving bowls with an ample amount of juice. I don’t mind pulling out the aromatics as I go but if you like you can have a few moments to retrieve the vanilla pods, cinnamon sticks and leaves beforehand.
Serve with a jug of cream for your guests to pour over as they see fit.
• You can buy sago from Asian grocers and health food stores.
• Use the smaller end of a parisienne scoop to make your balls. When balling your melon, do it over a bowl to retain any excess juice.
Photography by Benito Martin. Food styling by O Tama Carey. Prop styling by Lynsey Fryers. Food preparation by Nick Banbury.
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