Spicy Desert Lime and Watermelon Salad

Spicy Desert Lime and Watermelon Salad excerpted from Mabu Mabu: An Australian Kitchen Cookbook by Nornie Bero. Photography © Armelle Habib 2022.

Mabu Mabu: An Australian Kitchen Cookbook by Nornie Bero

In Mabu Mabu, charismatic First Nations chef Nornie Bero champions the tastes of native flavours in everyday cooking by unlocking the secrets of Australian herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits.

Nornie grew up on the island of Mer in the Torres Strait and while her wanderlust would take her to Italian and Japanese kitchens in Melbourne and London via Townsville, her home now is Mabu Mabu, a restaurant renowned in Melbourne and beyond for its innovative and delicious Australian Indigenous food.

This book, also called Mabu Mabu—which means help yourself—reflects Nornie’s approach to cooking: simple, accessible, delicious, and colourful! Her native pantry (explored in a comprehensive glossary of native ingredients) includes seeds, succulents, nuts, plants and herbs, and her recipes range from Pumpkin and Wattleseed dampers (for which she is known) to Kangaroo Tail Bourguignon to Saltbush Butter, Quandong Relish, Pickled Karkalla and Pulled Wild Boar.

Nornie also shares her knowledge of foraging, sourcing and substitutions, as well as the story of her formative years foraging, fishing and cooking alongside her beloved father on Mer.

Mabu Mabu: An Australian Kitchen Cookbook is available at Amazon.com and Indigo.ca.  

Spicy Desert Lime and Watermelon Salad

This sweet-savoury salad is power-packed with flavour. The sweetness of the watermelon – one of my favourite fruits – combines with the sharpness of desert lime and the creamy goat’s cheese. This is a great use for Pickled Succulents (page 175), which are a tangy, salty flavour bomb.


1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) watermelon, cut into pieces

125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) olive oil 100 ml (3½ fl oz) red wine vinegar

80 g (23/4 oz/½ cup) seablite leaves

5 g (1/8 oz) sea salt

80 g (23/4 oz) whole desert limes, sliced

80 ml (21/2 fl oz/1/3 cup) lime juice

1 tablespoon native currants 2 shallots, thinly sliced

100 g (3½ oz) Pickled Succulents (see below)

80 g (2¾ oz) crumbled goat’s cheese

80 g (2¾ oz/½ cup) caperberries, sliced

1 spring onion (scallion), sliced

10 g (¼ oz/½ cup) sea parsley leaves


  1. Place the watermelon pieces, olive oil, vinegar, seablite, sea salt, desert limes, lime juice and native currants in a bowl and leave to marinate for 20 minutes.
  2. Toss through the rest of the ingredients and eat immediately.


Pickled Succulents

Makes 5–6 × 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) jars

Karkalla is the ocean cucumber, and you can buy it from many markets. Pickling it is a great way to lock in the flavour, as it will suck up all the other flavours in the jar. You can toss this pickle through salads or add it to a cheese board for a different spin on the grazing platter.


6 cloves star anise

1 tablespoon mustard seeds 5 garlic cloves

1 tablespoon whole pepperberries

1 teaspoon whole cloves

250 g (9 oz) caster (superfine) sugar

500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) white vinegar

250 g (9 oz) karkalla

250 g (9 oz) samphire

100 g (31/2 oz) seablite


  1. In a large saucepan, combine all the spices and the sugar with 1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) water and the vinegar, then boil for 15 minutes.
  2. Place the sea succulents in sterilized glass jars.
  3. Let the pickling juice cool for 3 minutes before adding to the jars.
  4. Leave overnight and eat the next day. The pickle will keep for 2 months in the fridge.

Recipe reprinted with permission from Hardie Grant Books.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.