Made with a simple preparation, this pudding relies only on three main ingredients: fresh watermelon juice, cornstarch, and sugar. The result is a slightly wobbly but set pudding to eat by the spoonful. It's quite similar to lemon curd or panna cotta in consistency but tastes fresh and delicate (and—take note, those with dietary requirements—it's gluten-free and vegan, too). The individual puddings are made all the more exotic with traditional flavors of cinnamon or jasmine extract (make it by steeping white jasmine flowers in hot water, or use bottled essence) and a garnish of chopped pistachios and/or dark chocolate (a great combination that is supposed to be reminiscent of watermelon seeds), or sometimes even candied pumpkin.
And, if you have too much left over, this thick, wobbly mixture (much like lemon curd) can also be used to fill pie bases for baking watermelon crostata. —Emiko
6 to 8 people
(1 liter) watermelon juice (about 3 pounds of watermelon, depending on how juicy it is)
(100 grams) cornstarch (cornflour)
(100 grams) sugar (or up to 1 cup/200 grams/1 cup, depending on the natural sweetness of the fruit)
To obtain the watermelon juice, chop up watermelon pieces and pass through a food mill (passaverdura), blend in a blender or food processor and filter the juice through a sieve, or use a juicer.
In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch with about 1/2 cup of the juice and mix until smooth, being sure there are no lumps of starch. In a wide pot, add this to the rest of the juice and bring to a gentle simmer. Add sugar and taste for sweetness (you can adjust by adding more but I don't recommend using more than 1 cup total). If using, add the cinnamon or jasmine. As the mixture begins to cook, you will notice it getting thicker. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until it coats the back of a spoon and a finger drawn through it leaves a line (you are looking for a consistency similar to lemon curd).
Pour into individual containers such as ramekins, pretty glasses, or even jars for serving and set in the refrigerator, 4 to 6 hours or until chilled and set. It will still be a little wobbly and you can eat it directly out of the glass or ramekin with a spoon or even turn it out onto a plate like panna cotta. Decorate the tops with dark chocolate or pistachios.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.