Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hot Cress Fun!

Pepper Cress/Curly Cress, Watercress/Cresson.

2006 photograph picture of recipe for french watercress soup or veloute au 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.

2006 photograph picture of curly cress also known as pepper cress

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.

2004 | Orzo with Ham and Goat Cheese

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Hot Cress Fun!


  • At 7/11/06 09:49, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    There used to be a watercress farm hidden away on the hillside in Sausalito. I used to stroll past it when I lived there, and I was always curious about it.

    Googling for "Sausalito watercress", it looks like the farm has moved to Sonoma, and the land is now used by Poggio for their fresh greens.


  • At 7/11/06 10:01, Blogger cookiecrumb said…

    I love watercress! I actually grew a plant on my deck, submerged in a tub of water, one summer. It worked!
    I'd buy Star Route cress if they weren't so, um, unsociable sometimes at their booth (oh, I will, I'm just grumbling).

  • At 7/11/06 11:57, Blogger Veron said…

    watercress was the only vegetable I would willing eat growing up. It makes wonderful soup !

  • At 7/11/06 12:10, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That first photo is brilliant Sam. When I buy watercress I have to be up at 6.30 Sunday morning to get to the Market before the best organic stuff is all gone. There is always other watercress available but I'm never sure where it's been picked. I once read watercress picked from a stream where animals drink can cause some disease. Can't remember the disease but it was enough to scare me.

  • At 7/11/06 13:05, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Barbara I think you are probably referring to 'Liver fluke' which is passed on through contamination of rivers and streams by animals and I believe certain snails. There was a big scare in UK probably around early 70's and so we stopped going out to harvest our own from known sources in streams. If I'm wrong then I am sure someone will correct me.

  • At 7/11/06 13:27, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I am a lover of "cresson"! Too bad I was not there to feed myself on your lovely tasty soup!

  • At 7/11/06 15:04, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Sam I thought you knew me better than that, I would never choose roast beef, yuk, yuk, yuk!I never have done and never will choose that from a menu! I always chose a fish dish, scampi if I was lucky but I was never allowed chips with it always roast potatoes and veggies.

  • At 7/11/06 18:09, Blogger wheresmymind said…

    Those are some beautiful colors!!

  • At 7/11/06 18:24, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Oh, do save some for tea sandwiches!

    To answer Mike -- Yes, it's the same hillside where Poggio's greens are grown. They have sunny gardens other places to supply things that need heat and more sun.

    Upland cress can be grown in pots on a windowsill during the winter, very easy to care for -- and you just keep trimming bits to use in cooking.

  • At 7/11/06 19:10, Blogger Catherine said…

    clever title!

    Watercress soup can be grand!

  • At 8/11/06 05:57, Blogger yaezakura said…

    I love this soup very much.
    It looks delicious!

  • At 8/11/06 09:33, Blogger Julie said…

    I have used watercress in a lot of cooking, but have never done the soup. I don't know how this omission came to pass.

  • At 10/11/06 10:11, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You're after my own heart with the whole grain toast, avo and pile o pepper cress snack! It's all those flavor and texture combos. The earthy bread, the smooth avocado and the peppery cress! High in the yum factor and super rich in the nutrients.

  • At 11/11/06 07:22, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Mike - is that you? I think I know which Mike that is. Were you ever so curious as to pick a leaf and taste it?

    Cookie - yes I totally agree the star Route vendors are a bunch of miserable *******s.

    I only go there because they have some produce that can't be gotten elsewhere.

    If there were two places that sold frisee, I think the other place would win my custom.

    veron - i sure wish I had been as smart as you growing up. the only veggie i would willingly eat was a mushroom.

    barbara - i cheated and took the photo the next morning when the light came up. I had it for lunch two days in a row at work.
    As mum points out - liver fluke. She raised me with the fear of river fluke in watercress, believe me.

    Bea - I am sure if you made some it would look a million times more delicious!

    Kudzu - I wish i could grow mustard cress here. I don't have green fingers bbut it is the only thing I can grow. It's my absolute favourite, but not available for some reason in the US. Sandwiches - oh yes. Next week's lunch!

    Beccy - you don't like beef? Daft girl. But now yes I remember you weren't allowed chips. ha ha.

    wmm - green used to be my favourite colour growing up. Now I am old and fickle my favourite colour changes every week.

    catherine - i wondered if someone would notice the title. just me having some silly fun with myself.

    yaezakura - thank you - do you ever make it?

    Julie - when my sister was pregnant with her first child - 13 years ago or more, I made her eat watercress to give her vitamins. But she hates it so I had to disguise it in a stuffed marrow. That's marrow as in the vegetable, not the bone.

    Mallika - ooh, a squirt of orange - I must try that next time.

    rebecca - shh - lets keep that little slice of nirvana to ourselves, shall we! Avocado has replaced butter as my spread du jour. I never thought I'd see the day when I found something to replace butter on my toast.

  • At 11/11/06 16:08, Blogger Ayun Halliday said…

    oh HELL yeah! I've never made Watercress Soup before...but if it's lazy and tasty I'm all over it!

    Here's one of the few things (okay the only think I know how to do with watercress. I might go do it now.


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