I was having a chat the other day with my greengrocer about watercress. Yes, my conversation are almost always about food and often involve me getting far too excited about vegetables. Anyhow, my grocer was lamenting the fact that he had loads of watercress in and no one was buying it. I love watercress and its delicious, fresh, crunchy pepperiness– it’s calling card is its slight bitterness. Watercress is also a source of Vitamins A,C, K B6, B9, Iron, Magnesium and Calcium–more reasons to love it if you don’t. And here’s a few facts for you fact nerds like me– it’s 93% water (making it hydrating) AND it’s in the same family is the bright orange nasturtium flowers, you know the ones with the lilypad-esque leaves.
But back to why people don’t buy it… I think it’s largely because of its distinctive taste, but also because people aren’t sure how to use it that’s not in a salad. Generally, the key to making the most of watercress’ flavour is to balance it with mild, sweeter or even punchier flavours– soft cheese, apple, lemon and or something nutty (almonds or sesame seeds). But if you still aren’t convinced you’d buy it, here are 5 ways to use watercress (and only of them is a salad), that might convince you.
- Pop it on top—Top your tarts with a good few handfuls of watercress. Crisp pastry, a creamy filling and a topping of watercress make delicious friends. You can even mix it chopped through the filling before you bake your tart. I think this is going to be on the menu for dinner this eve. Not just for tarts, a crown of watercress goes beautifully on top of a stack of fritters, a bit of cod or a bowl of noodles.
- Soup it—Watercress and potato soup is pretty legendary, but if you’re after something lighter, a watercress, white bean and lemon soup (zest or some preserved lemon). It is creamy, zingy and delicious. Or great, and also seasonal soup pairings include, courgette, peas, broad beans or think about using it as a replacement for other leafy greens in other soups like Ribollita.
- Blitz it or bash it—Whether you’re making pesto, chimichurri or gremolata, all of these fresh herby sauces will benefit from the addition of watercress. And if you know me, I always have a bit of leftover brine from a ferment going and like to add some in when making fresh pesto, etc as it adds probiotic goodness, but also helps it to stay fresh for longer. Make up a big batch and keep it in the fridge to serve alongside or on top of anything to add flavour, colour and nutrients. You can even mix the pesto/gremolata through crème fraiche, yogurt or mayo for dressing, dipping or dolloping.
- Wilt it—Much like spinach, watercress is delicious lightly cooked or wilted in a hot pan alongside other veg or on its own. Cook up some mushrooms and add a handful of watercress and let it wilt. Or add some to a pan of crispy roast potatoes and stir through to soften the watercress. I’d also highly recommend topping the potatoes and watercress with a bit of crumbled feta.
- Salad it ( warm or cold)—A nice hearty warm salad is definitely better for the crisp, cool addition of a bit of crunchy watercress. If you’re after a cold salad here’s one to try—Watercress with apple (matchstick), roasted almonds, puy lentils and a pinch or 2 of smoked salt. If you eat meat you could add crispy bacon or add a soft poached egg or a bit of goat cheese (or all 3). I’d dress this in a simple vinaigrette.
So get yourself some watercress while its lasts, as it’s at its best in the summer. Thanks to my grocers Marvellous Greens and Beans for the always exciting veg chat and The Watercress Company for the gift of some gorgeous watercress, both of whom provided inspiration for this post.
And remember, if you need help upping your kitchen game when it comes to cooking veg, I am here to help. You can book a bespoke cooking or Nutrition and Cooking session with me.