"Whenever I see watercress, which isn't very often, I think of the rich. I think they are the only people who can afford it and they use watercress in exotic recipes that they keep hidden in vaults from the poor.”
Richard Brautigan (1971)
I love watercress! In fact, when it appears in my veg box it very often gets munched, unwashed, before it ever sees the fridge.
The outstanding nutritional benefits of watercress saw it become part of the cult of the 'superfood' a few years ago and hardly any foodie would have been able to miss that. When looking for a recipe, I happened upon "Classic Watercress Sauce" by The Watercress Company who are all things watercress and have an in-depth account of the contributions watercress makes to the diet, entitled "The Original Superfood".
Grown predominantly in Hampshire and Dorset, the UK season for watercress runs roughly from May to November and it is certainly associated, in the culinary calendar, with early summer, especially to accompany the likes of wild salmon and sea trout which are almost an emblem of British summer when poached whole. But many other fish types are delicious poached and a watercress sauce is a great companion to them all.
In the picture it is being enjoyed with a poached Dover sole and boiled new season Jersey Royals. And no, watercress is not just for the rich!
I suspect I will be experimenting with this sauce in time to come and will, of course, update this post as I do. One thing I know I will always be inclined to do is to season this sauce generously and especially so with pepper to accentuate the 'pepperiness' of the watercress itself. On the subject of pepper, and don't ask me why, my preference in this case is to use ground white pepper, but I would quite happily use black pepper as well.
Obviously the fresher the watercress you can obtain the better tasting will be this sauce.
Ingredients (for 2 servings)
A knob of butter
1 small shallot, roughly diced
50ml dry white wine
50ml vegetable, fish or chicken stock, or water
30g watercress, roughly chopped
25ml double cream
Salt and ground white pepper
Sweat the shallot in the knob of butter in a saucepan and before the shallot colours add the wine and stock or water. Turn up the heat and reduce the liquid by half. Then add half of the watercress and simmer for no more than 30 seconds.
Transfer the contents of the pan to a blender (or use a stick blender) and blitz. Add the remaining half of the watercress and blitz again.
Return to the pan, add the cream and bring up the heat. Allow to bubble until it reaches the preferred consistency then season generously (especially with pepper) and serve.