“I liked her [MFK Fisher’s] habit of bestowing human traits on her dishes: a ‘lusty ratatouille’, a ‘dainty omelette’, the ripe, firm tomatoes philosophically ‘ruminating’ in basil and olive oil.”
-Laura Freeman, The Reading Cure: How Books Restored My Appetite
Recently I visited Bamberg in Germany – this is an ancient town was made a family inheritance in 1007 by the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II with a cathedral being completed in the thirteenth century. Witch trials in the 17th century claimed about a thousand victims reaching a climax between 1626 and 1631. The famous Drudenhaus (witch prison), built in 1627, is no longer standing today, but an awful lot of other buildings still are, and the town is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
We didn’t have long in Bamberg – we were passing through for just a night – but the concierge at our hotel (which had the unlikely name of The Romantik Hotel Messerschmitt) told us we would easily find somewhere ‘authentic’ to eat.
We did not. We found a couple of Bier Keller aspirants, but they had the World Cup blaring, and were serving inferior-looking hamburgers. We couldn’t find a nice, simple German restaurant, so we ended up going to Little Italy. It had a been a burning hot day, a burning hot summer in fact, and we wanted to eat something cool and refreshing.
I found this red salad of tomatoes and watermelon on the menu. Looking up I saw tomatoes growing on a windowsill of one of the upper windows and I was encouraged into thinking that the chef would be taking his tomatoes pretty seriously. When it came to the watermelon – a fruit I usually associate with tasteless pink slush, I thought on this occasion it might just be the perfect partner.
The key ingredient here however is the pesto. And if you can source some bread made with green olives included that raises the whole thing to yet another level.
As a lunch, goes well with Courgettes Baked with Cheese, and some green olive bread.
Recipe for Hot Day Tomato and Watermelon Salad from Bamberg
Serves 3 as an accompaniment
- ¼ seedless watermelon – approx. 800g
- 300g/11 oz baby plum tomatoes – ideally different colours
- 3 tbsps pesto
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsps olive oil
- freshly ground black pepper – or Urfa pepper
- tactile salt – eg Maldon
- a few extra fresh basil leaves
- bread – ideally green olive bread
- Cut the watermelon into small pieces a little bigger than the tomatoes.
- Cut the tomatoes in half
- Place on a flat plate.
- Mix up the oil, vinegar and pesto. Drizzle over.
- Grind over the pepper, scatter over the salt, tear over the basil leaves and you’re done!