Silvena Rowe’s Watermelon and Feta Salad with Za’atar Crumble

Ottoman-inspired food. Not something that you might come across everyday, but what a treat. There is something quite magical about the blending of sweet with sour, hints of honey, sprinkles of sumac, cinnamon, cumin, za’atar. Street markets offering marinated meats, shawarma, garlic sauce, tahini, preserved chillis. Mezze tables with olives, hummus, freshly baked flat bread. Fresh flavours of parsley, mint, lemon. Sweet figs, orange blossom, pistachio, pomegranate, rose petals. My dream feast, my inspired table.

This month’s Random Recipe challenge set by Dom at Belleau Kitchen was to go back to basics, to pick a book, any book and cook from it. Bulgarian-born Chef Silvena Rowe’s Orient Express has been sitting on my shelf for many months. Fast food from the eastern Mediterranean. Small dishes, lightness, hints of Purple Citrus and Sweet Perfume; the brilliant book she wrote before this one.

I openend the book at page 19, a chapter named Za’atar and Saffron, and my challenge was simple; Watermelon and Cherry Tomato Salad with Feta, Almond and Za’atar Crumble.

I followed Silvena’s recipe in the book, making one simple addition of a chopped white peach. The sweetness is already there in the watermelon, the peach just added an extra flavour hit. I also used one whole ripe tomato in place of cherry tomatoes. Fresh mint, feta cheese, flaked almonds, a sprinkle of za’atar – a spice blend made up of sesame seeds, thyme, cumin and ground sumac. You can blend your own following Silvena’s recipe here  or buy it in the shops now. A few pretty white, nasturtiums to decorate. This salad is full of summer, an explosion of fresh, bold flavour.

Watermelons remind Silvena Rowe of her upbringing in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, within the Ottoman Empire. She remembers piles of watermelon at the market, ripe and ready for a hot sunny afternoon. This salad reminded me to book a holiday abroad, to go an explore the street food and street markets of the eastern Mediterranean.

I’m sending this recipe across to three wonderful blog events and also linking it up to Simple and in Season, too, here at Fabulicious Food.

1. Random Recipes at Belleau Kitchen – Challenge #19 Let’s start at the very beginning.

2. Monthly Mingle Street Food Challenge hosted by Zizi’s Adventures

3. The One Ingredient Challenge hosted by Working London Mummy and Laura from How to Cook with a theme of peaches.

Other recipes in Orient Express I’d like to cook are:

Za’atar Crispy Fried Calamari

Orange and Za’atar Marinated Haloumi

Chilli Chickpea Street Pilaf

Lamb Moussaka Rolls

Honey and Ginger Roasted Apricots with Ricotta


Where would your ultimate food adventures take you? To the Ottoman Empire, or beyond?


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  1. Mmmm! I adore watermelon and feta salad, and yours looks gorgeous.

  2. Thanks Ren. I love the idea of this, and need to get some za’atar as keep hearing about it but not used it and this sounds and looks delicious!

    1. I think you will really like Za’atar, I have a great chicken recipe coming up, its quite lemony so goes well with lemon and citrus flavours too. Defnitely adds a certain something!

  3. How fantastic Ren, love the sound of this recipe. I do think Silvena Rowe is a mighty fine chef and would love to see more of her Ottoman inspired food. I often buy Za’tar but have never made my own. Maybe I should!
    Your blog is looking even better now, absolutely love it . A beautiful One Ingredient entry xx

    1. Thank you Laura! I have just been offered an interview with Silvena which I’m excited abut as I think she’s a great chef and I love the Eastern inspiration in her food. Love Za’atar, but will definitely trying the Quince blend, too. Thank you for the blog comment – it’s been a work in progess over the summer but I love it now – and will finally stop tweaking!!! – I hope 🙂

    1. Thank you, lots of hard work behind the scenes. Very kind of you to say 🙂 Hope you still enjoying visiting x

  4. How wonderful! I live sweetness in my savoury food so the idea of Ottoman food is very appealing. The salad looks divine Ren. So chic and so gentle. I could do with a bowl now for that wonderful hit of flavour. Thanks so much for taking part this month. Xx

    1. Thanks Dom, always so kind. I like ‘chic’ that;s such a nice description. Looking forward to the round up. A real gem on my shelf I had otherwise overlooked with Orient Express.

    1. Thanks Ian, have just popped over to you, the za’atar flat breads sound amazing. Making them next week with Georgian chicken.

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