Pancetta and cantaloupe salad

FOOD

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This salad reminds me of being at cooking school in Paris, on a blistering hot summer’s day, when we put together a dish of chilled, ripe melon and sizzling bacon. The fat left in the pan was sharpened up with vinegar and we used it to dress the salad. Simple and stunning.

Serves 4

cider vinegar 200ml
tarragon 30g, stalks and leaves
cantaloupe melon 1
tomatoes 2, large
pancetta 100g, thinly sliced
olive oil 2 tbsp
basil leaves 10g

Pour the cider vinegar into a jar. Crush the tarragon stalks and leaves in your hand then put them into the vinegar, pushing them down above the liquid as much as you can. Screw on the top and set aside for a minimum of four hours, if possible over night. The occasional shake of the jar will help the infusion.

Slice the melon in half and scoop out and discard the seeds. Remove the melon flesh in large, juicy chunks, saving as much of the escaping juice as possible, and put the fruit and juice into a mixing bowl. Slice the tomatoes thickly and add to the melon. Put the melon and tomato, covered, into the fridge. In a shallow pan, fry the pancetta in the olive oil until very crisp, then remove and drain on kitchen paper. Reserve the fat and oil in the pan.

When the salad is ready to dress, warm the pancetta fat in the pan over a moderate heat, then pour in 4 tbsp of the herb vinegar. It may spit at you, so take care. Add a little black pepper then pour the hot dressing over the chilled melon. Fold in the basil leaves.

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