Lerato Umah-Shaylor’s recipes for summer fruits in savoury dishes | Summer food and drink

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I have always believed that the best way to enjoy fruit – especially summer fruit at its peak – is to bite into that sweet or sour, tart and juicy flesh. But there is something to be said for cooking with fruit, preserving its essence in jams or pairing it with chillies, florals, citrus, acid and spice for an explosion of flavours. Here are two fine examples of how I love to celebrate summer fruit in savoury dishes.

Watermelon kachumbari with hibiscus and citrus (pictured top)

Escape to the East African shores of Kenya and Tanzania, where this delicious legacy of Indo-African flavours is much loved. With the added joy of thirst-quenching watermelon alongside traditional, sunshine-filled tomatoes and cucumber, I wanted to take this even further with a dashing dressing in which citrus flavours from the hibiscus, orange and lime marry beautifully. The green chilli adds a savoury, tart dimension and an unexpected tease of heat.

Prep 10 min
Macerate 20 min
Cook 25 min

For the hibiscus dressing
Zest and juice of 1 orange
(about 70-75ml)
Zest and juice of 1 lime (about 15ml)
2 tbsp red-wine vinegar
1 tsp hibiscus powder
(from healthfood shops)
1 tbsp honey
, or agave syrup
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
A good pinch of salt

For the salad
1 red onion
, peeled and thinly sliced
200g watermelon (about ¼ small watermelon)
200g cherry tomatoes, a mix of red and yellow, if possible
1 cucumber
1 jalapeño
, or any mild green chilli
25g basil leaves

Put the zest and juice of the orange and lime in a small saucepan, add the vinegar and heat gently. Stir in the hibiscus powder, honey, pepper and salt, then take off the heat, add the sliced onions, cover and leave to macerate and cool for up to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the salad. Peel the the watermelon, cut the flesh into roughly 2cm chunks and tip into a large bowl. Halve the tomatoes, cut the cucumber into roughly 2cm chunks, and mince the chilli, then add them all to the bowl. Once cooled, pour the hibiscus dressing and onions over the salad, toss to combine, then pop in the fridge until you’re ready to eat.

To serve, tear the basil leaves and scatter over the salad, tossing once more before devouring. Serve with roast or grilled fish, poultry or meat, especially of the spicy kind – the hibiscus-soaked fruit will offer great refreshment as it bursts in your mouth.

Strawberry and scotch bonnet jam with nigella seeds

Lerato Umah-Shaylor’s strawberry and scotch bonnet jam with nigella seeds. Photograph: Louise Hagger/The Guardian. Food styling: Emily Kydd. Prop styling: Jennifer Kay. Food styling assistant: Isobel Clarke.:

Summer’s bounty of sweet and fragrant strawberries finds a sizzling partner in scotch bonnets. These daring peppers, ubiquitous in West African cooking, often inspire great excitement or apprehension. Quite similar to, and often sold as, the more pointy habanero, its fruity, citrus and spicy notes make it one of the most flavourful and dynamic peppers to cook with. Serve this berry-bursting, tingly jam with grilled steak or chicken, or use as a marinade or glaze; or just smear it on buttery French toast, or serve with cheese and crackers – it’s quite a treat with a sharp, aged cheddar or zesty manchego. You will need two 300ml or three 200ml jam jars.

Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr
Makes 600g jam

800g strawberries
1 scotch bonnet chilli
, stems discarded
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled
2 tsp fennel seeds

12 green cardamom pods, seeds removed
Zest and juice of 1 lemon (you’ll need about 2 tbsp juice)
300g preserving or jam sugar
½ tsp sea salt flakes or ¼ fine sea salt
1 tbsp nigella seeds

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/400F/gas 6 and put a small saucer or plate in the freezer.

Hull the strawberries, give them a quick but thorough rinse, then pat dry to ensure they do not absorb too much water. Cut in half and tip into a non-reactive saucepan.

Transfer a big handful of the berries to a blender or food processor, then add the scotch bonnet and ginger.

Tip the fennel seeds into a small saucepan, toast for a few minutes, until fragrant, then pour into the blender and add the cardamom and lemon zest and juice. Blend to a puree.

Put the saucepan of strawberries on a medium heat, pour in the berry puree, scraping every last drop from the blender, then stir in the sugar and salt, and simmer for up to 35 minutes, stirring only a few times. The strawberries will begin to release their juices as it comes to a boil. Use a masher or wooden spoon to crush the berries, leaving considerable chunks so you end up with a textured jam. And don’t waste any precious jam by skimming the foam off the top; one final stir will do away with it. Once the mix is thickened and glossy, take off the heat. Considerably less sugar than usual is used in this jam, so setting might be a concern, but don’t worry. You can be assured by spreading a tablespoonful of jam on to the saucer from the freezer. After a few minutes, carefully tilt it to face downwards and, if the crimson jam moves ever so slowly down, it’s ready. If not, it needs a little longer cooking.

Once the jam is ready, stir in the nigella seeds, then carefully spoon the hot jam into hot sterilised jars. Seal, leave to cool, then store in a cool, dark place, where it will keep for up to three months; once opened, refrigerate and use within a month.

  • Africana: Treasured Recipes and Stories from Across the Continent, by Lerato Umah-Shaylor, is published by HQ, HarperCollins, at £22. To order a copy for £19.36, visit guardianbookshop.com. Follow Lerato on instagram @leratofoods


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