Watercress Soup

A soup may not excite on paper; it is nothing new. A good soup, however, is a thing of beauty: a bowlful of comforting warmth with depth and a purity of flavour that encapsulates the ingredient…..whether a clear broth or something heartier and velvety. It was at my time at Le Manoir au Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire that I realised how good a soup could be, and a great deal of that was due to fast cooking: keeping the ingredient fresh and capturing that flavour, rather than hours of simmering to a dull shadow of itself. People may romanticise that a pan bubbling away gently for hours will result in more flavour than less, though that isn’t always the case, and the below recipe is a prime example of how technique and attention to detail can elevate some pedestrian ingredients into something surprisingly refined. Do keep the large watercress stems, even after picking when stripped of their leaves. They are succulent and full of flavour, and would still make a great addition to a salad.

Watercress soup

1/2 White onion, finely chopped  

1 Leek, finely chopped

200g New potatoes, finely chopped (do not peel)

30g Salted butter

500g Water, boiling

1tsp Fine sea salt

150g Watercress, picked and washed

50g Baby spinach, washed

30g Salted butter

Pinch Fine sea salt

400g Ice cubes

- Place 2 roasting trays in the freezer.

- Gently sweat the onion, leek and potato in the butter for 15 mins under a lid until softened.

- Add the salt and water and simmer for 5 mins until the potatoes are tender. Pour into one of the chilled large roasting trays (now out of the freezer) to arrest the cooking and cool.

- In a separate large pan, wilt the watercress in the butter for 2 mins until softened, then add the baby spinach and wilt for another 30 secs; season lightly.

- Pour into the other chilled tray and add the ice cubes to arrest the cooking.

- Blend the potato soup on maximum speed in a blender until completely smooth, then pass through a sieve. 

- Repeat with the watercress and all the ice and cooking juices.

- Combine both soups and check seasoning.

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