Grilled chicken with pickled watermelon salad


  • Serves 10 people

This dish has all the elements of a perfect summer Christmas dish: vibrant, crisp watermelon, fresh herbs and sweet and sour pickled rind. You'll need to begin this recipe a day ahead.

  • 2 chickens (about 1.8kg each), butterflied, backbone removed
  • 250 ml (1 cup) fish sauce
  • 250 ml (1 cup) lime juice
  • 160 gm light palm sugar, crushed
  • 150 gm (1 cup) spelt (see note)
  • 600 gm watermelon, thickly sliced (reserve rind for pickle)
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) mint
  • 1 cup each (loosely packed) coriander, Thai basil and Vietnamese mint
  • Pickled watermelon rind
  • 100 gm watermelon rind, thinly sliced on a mandolin
  • 250 ml (1 cup) rice wine vinegar
  • 165 gm (¾ cup) caster sugar
  • 1 long red chilli, split
  • 5 gm (1cm piece) ginger, thinly sliced
  • Crisp shallots and garlic
  • For deep-frying: vegetable oil
  • 10 golden shallots, thinly sliced on a mandolin
  • 5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced on a mandolin
01   For pickled watermelon rind, place rind in a non-reactive container and set aside. Stir rice wine vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil, set aside to cool, then add remaining ingredients and pour over watermelon rind. Cover and refrigerate overnight to pickle.
02   Place chickens in a non-reactive dish and set aside. Pound fish sauce, lime juice and palm sugar in a large mortar and pestle to combine, pour half over chicken and refrigerate to marinate (1 hour). Refrigerate remaining dressing until required.
03   Meanwhile, cook spelt in boiling salted water until tender (30-40 minutes). Drain well, spread on a tray and set aside to cool.
04   Meanwhile, for crisp shallots and garlic, heat oil in a deep saucepan to 160C, add shallots and deep-fry in batches, stirring frequently, until crisp and golden (1-2 minutes; be careful as hot oil will spit), remove with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Deep-fry garlic, stirring frequently, until crisp and golden (1-2 minutes; be careful as hot oil will spit), remove and drain on absorbent paper. Store in an airtight container until required.
05   Heat a char-grill pan (or barbecue) over medium-high heat. Drain chicken from marinade, char-grill skin-side down until crisp (10-15 minutes), turn, char-grill until cooked through (10-15 minutes). Set aside to rest.
06   Combine watermelon wedges, spelt, herbs and pickled watermelon rind in a bowl, drizzle with reserved dressing and toss to combine. Scatter chicken with crisp shallots and garlic and serve with pickled watermelon salad.

Note Spelt is a grain, similar to barley, available from health-food shops and select delicatessens. If it's unavailable, substitute freekah or farro perlato (you may need to adjust cooking times and quantities).

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