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Melon en Surprise

Melon and berry dish1

Melon and berry dishMelon en Surprise was Auguste Escoffier’s title for a five line description of a tasty combination of melons and other fresh fruits in his 1903 masterpiece Le Guide Culinaire.

Of course, Escoffier was working from the notes and techniques of Antoine Carême, an earlier codifier of French Haute cuisine.

But as you will see here, it certainly would not take the minds of two of cookery’s greatest to set down the terms of one of summer’s most delightful fruit combinations.

This recipe–or something very like it–is probably written onto the back cover of your great grandmother’s most favorite cookbook. She probably heard about it from her grandmother.

You can use this description as the basic pattern for your imagination’s own seasonal taste in fruit.

Time required: ½ hour exclusive of chilling

Serves 4


1 large honeydew melon

Confectioner’s sugar

1 cup (237 ml) watermelon balls

1 cup cantaloupe balls

1/4 cup (59 ml) blueberries

1/4 cup blackberries

A few Bing cherries

1/2 cup (118 ml) each peach and apricot cubes

12 ounces (340 grams) raspberries

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup kirsch


1. Cut a 3-inch (7.5 cm) circular plug from the top of a ripe honeydew melon; scrape out the seed and remove the flesh with a ball scoop.

2. Dust the inner shell with confectioner’s sugar.

3. Prepare the rest of the fruit, except the raspberries. Pit the cherries; cubed apricots and peaches should be dipped in water and lemon juice to prevent darkening.

4. Mix the fruits and fill the melon shell.

5. Make a strained purée of the raspberries, flavoring with the sugar and kirsch (brandy may be substituted). Pour this over the fruit, replace the plug, and wrap the whole in airtight aluminum foil.

6. Chill for at least 2 hours.

7. Serve the melon upright in a deep bowl of cracked ice.

Fruit substitutions might include seeded grape halves, pineapple chunks, whole strawberries, and sliced bananas.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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