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The wonder of watercress

Watercress Soup

Ingredients:
1.5 onions; diced; 3 cloves garlic; peeled and crushed; 3 medium potatoes; peeled and sliced; 300g watercress; 1 vegetable stock cube; 125ml double cream; 75g unsalted butter; salt and pepper; 1 tbsp olive oil; 2 litres boiling water. Serves 5.

Method:
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and add 25g of the butter. Once the butter starts to foam, throw in the onions and garlic with a good pinch of salt and fry until softened and beginning to caramelise.
2. Add the water to the pan, followed by the potatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through.
3. Add in the watercress and bring to the boil as quickly as possible. Simmer for 30 seconds then remove from the heat. Use a sieve or slotted spoon to transfer the watercress, onions and potatoes to a blender, in batches if necessary, then use a jug to add enough hot stock to cover. Do not pour everything into the blender at once as the soup may end up too thin. Blend thoroughly.
4. Blend the cream and butter into the final batch, then whisk everything together. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Additions
You might like to consider adding fried smoked lardons or chorizo, smoked haddock pieces or even sautéed prawns to the soup before serving.

Smoked Haddock and Watercress Fishcakes

Ingredients:
400g potatoes; 30g butter; 500g smoked haddock; 1 litre milk; 85g watercress; zest of a lemon; 2 spring onions, sliced; 2 tsp oil; flour to dust. Serves 4.

Method:
1. Peel the potatoes and chop into small chunks. Cook in boiling water for approximately 10 minutes until tender. Drain then add the butter, season and mash roughly.
2. Meanwhile in a large deep frying pan, gently cook the fish in the milk (in 2 batches if necessary) for 8 minutes or until it flakes. Lift the fish out of the milk and set aside on a plate. Chop the watercress.
3. When the fish is cool enough to handle flake it into a large bowl, add the mashed potatoes, watercress and spring onions and grate in the lemon zest.
4. Gently combine all the ingredients then shape into 8 fishcakes, using your hands. Leave to chill in the fridge for ½ hour.
5. Heat 2 tsp oil in a frying pan, dust both sides of the fishcakes with flour and gently fry on each side until they are browned and hot to the centre. Serve with a salad of fresh watercress.

Diana Henry’s Linguine with Watercress Pesto

Don’t be afraid of wholewheat linguine. I can’t eat wholewheat pasta shapes – too chewy – but wholewheat linguine is lovely. It’s slightly nutty too!

Ingredients:
450g wholewheat linguine; 75g watercress, coarse stalks removed; 10g flat leaf parsley (leaves only); 1 clove garlic, crushed; 40g toasted pine nuts (or you can use toasted blanched hazelnuts); 30g freshly grated pecorino (or Parmesan); 7 tbs extra virgin olive oil; salt and pepper. Serves 4.

Method:
1. Put the linguine into a big pan of boiling slightly salted water and cook until it is cooked but still al dente.
2. Meanwhile, make the pesto. Put the watercress into a food processor with the extra virgin olive oil, parsley, garlic and nuts. Blitz, using the pulse-blend button. Add half the cheese, blend again, then scrape into a bowl and stir in the rest of the cheese. Taste for seasoning.
3. Drain the linguine, then return it to the pan with a little of its cooking water. Mix in the pesto and serve immediately. You can offer more cheese on the side.

Creamy Watercress Stuffed Chicken

Ingredients:
50g/2oz soft (medium fat) cheese; 1 (85g) bag watercress, finely chopped; 1 small clove garlic, crushed; 4 chicken breast fillets, skinless; 4 slices Parma ham; 15ml/1 tbsp olive oil; 60ml/4 tbsp marsala wine
150ml/¼pt chicken stock; 60ml/4 tbsp double cream; salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serves 4.

Method:
1. Mash the cheese with half the watercress, garlic and salt and pepper. Use a knife to make a slit along one side of each chicken breast to make a pocket, fill with the cheese then wrap the parma ham around the chicken, tucking the loose ends of ham underneath.
2. Heat the oil in a frying pan add the chicken and cook for 8 mins, turning it over once until the ham is golden. Add the marsala to the pan, sauté for 1 minute, stir in the stock, then cover the pan with a baking sheet or foil and simmer for 15-20 mins or until tender and cooked through.
3. Transfer the chicken to a plate and keep warm. Simmer the liquid to reduce, until it becomes syrup. 4. Stir in the remaining watercress and cream and bring to the boil. Simmer for 1 minute, then remove from the heat and season to taste. Serve with crushed potatoes and green beans.

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