Grilled Watermelon Cooler

AT A GLANCE

"Grilling watermelon intensifies the sweetness, so this great summer cooler doesn't need any additional sugar," says Hastie. "The smooth pepperiness of Silver Patrón pairs admirably with the fruit, which is enlivened by the addition of fresh basil and ginger."

  • For barbecuing: seasoned hardwood, preferably fruitwood
  • 240 gm watermelon, cut into 2cm slices
  • ½ lime
  • 1 thin slice ginger
  • 3 basil leaves
  • 60 ml tequila, such as Patrón Silver
  • To taste: ginger ale
01   Burn wood slowly down to smouldering embers and medium-high heat (see below). Grill watermelon slices until just caramelised (3-5 minutes each side), and grill the lime half cut-side down (1-2 minutes). Set aside to cool completely.
02   Remove the rind from watermelon and dice flesh. Place in a Boston glass or cocktail shaker, muddle with ginger, basil leaves and juice of the grilled lime half. Add tequila, fill with ice, shake well, then strain into a chilled tall glass, top with ginger ale and ice, and serve.

How to prepare wood
* It almost goes without saying, but check the fire restrictions for the day in your area.
* Because they offer better control over airflow, wood-fired ovens are the perfect thing for burning the wood to coals; take care when you're transferring them to your grill or barbecue.
* If you're using a pit, enclose the fire with fire-rated bricks to help retain the heat and to slow the rate of burning.
* If you're using a barbecue, light the fire, close the lid and adjust the vents so the wood doesn't burn too fast. If you happen to have two barbecues, use one for burning the wood and one for grilling.
* Light the fire early - at least 1½ hours before starting cooking. Avoid using fire lighters or treated wood where there can be a residual chemical component. Wood embers burn hotter than the fire itself, so allow the wood to break down to glowing coals with a light-grey coating of ash. Too high a temperature and the subtle elements of the wood become tasteless. Optimal conditions are a slow, smouldering fire.
* Ideally you should use seasoned hardwood (at least 12 months old). Green or unseasoned wood with a high moisture content is harder to light and burns erratically, emitting smoke instead of heat, so it's worth sourcing premium hardwoods from recognised suppliers, such as Blackheath Firewood Company. If you have fruit trees, keep your prunings to use the next year.
* Woods vary in the amount of heat and flavour they produce.

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