Hot Cress Fun!
Pepper Cress/Curly Cress, Watercress/Cresson.
Last Saturday I managed to drag Fred to the Farmer's Market with me. This is a yearly event, at most, and I had to wait until gone midday before even starting the journey. Usually I would already be back home by around 10am.
Because of our tardiness, the Farmers' supplies were dwindling by the time we arrived. I wanted to show Fred Star Route Farms where I always buy the Frisée he loves so much. But the tiny basket of frizzy-leaved lettuces with their striking, uniform, dark green to bright yellow/white gradient hue had long since found new homes to go to. Then something else caught Fred's eye: Ummmmm, he muttered, "velouté au cresson", gesturing towards a box bursting with a mess of shiny dark green leaves, set on the floor in the corner.
The watercress were forgotten in the fridge for a couple of days until it was time to make the soup. When I pulled them out and into the colander for a washing, I was struck by their stong peppery aroma. I had never smelt such lively watercress. And when I tried one? Wow-wee, the best, most aromatic watercress I have ever tasted beyond any shadow of a doubt.
When I was a kid and my mum was dating my step-dad, before they were married, they used to take us out for Sunday lunch once a month in a tavern-style place in downtown Bristol. The menu was always the same - classic British Sunday roast meat dishes with potatoes, gravy and vegetables. We could have minestrone soup to start and a little bowl of ice cream for dessert. All four of us would usually choose the roast beef with Yorkshire pudding. On one visit I declared I wanted the lamb, my favourite meat, instead. "You won't like it", my mother told me, "it is served with watercress, which you won't like". Still, I insisted and she agreed to let me select it as long as I promised to eat all of the watercress, whatever it may be. Boy, she was right. How I suffered for that piece of lamb.
But now, of course, I love watercress with its spicy, peppery leaves. If you are fond of it too, I urge you to try Star Route's version. They really quite astonished me. I feel the start of a watercress craze chez nous.
And what about the curly cress, also known as pepper cress? These are also available from Star Route. When I recently dined at 1550 Hyde for the first time, I had a stunning dish of grilled hoffman gamebirds' chicken with sweet pepper-potato stew that was generously garnished with pepper cress. It served to remind me how delicious and intriguing the addition of this green is to a meal. It might sound wierd to some, but I love to top a piece of homemade wholewheat toast with a spread of avocado, a dribble of lime juice, fresh cracked pepper, sea salt and then crown it with a huge pile of Star Route's pepper cress. Right now I can't think of a more delicious breakfast or snack. I could almost turn vegan again...
PS - To make the watercress soup I used a very lazy version of the method you can read here.