World Watercress Soup Championship

The World Watercress Soup Championship is happening less than twenty miles away in the small Hampshire market town of Alresford on Sunday, 20 May 2012.

I’m on it, making soup and waking up in the middle of the night dreaming soup! Blame it all on the bunch of watercress in my salad box this week as a change from the veg box. I’ve ignored this Oh so good for you semi aquatic vegetable for many years for no particular reason. The Victorians believed watercress to be a cure for all sorts of ailments, even freckles, boy oh boy, wish I’d known that when I was twelve. Now it’s back on the menu I could be eating a lot more of it . . . found some great recipe ideas here.

There are two competition categories: best variant on the classic recipe and best speciality version. Had a go at a tried and tested recipe I’ve used before which is so simple and very delicious. Watercress takes on a sweetness of its own accord with an onion and a potato.

Take: 1 small chopped onion, 100g watercress, 1 medium potato diced, olive oil, 500ml vegetable stock, crème fraîche, seasoning

Heat olive oil, sauté onion until translucent, add potato, sweat gently for 2 mins. Add vegetable stock and simmer until potato cooked. Remove from heat, add watercress, stir. If you do it this way round it keeps the brightness of the watercress green and less cooking time is better for holding on to all the goodness. Put soup into food processor and wiz until potato is blended. I like to see and taste bits of green in my soup but some prefer to blitz until the whole thing has turned Kermit green and then stir in a white circle of cream, or crème fraîche for the finishing touch.

I’ve discovered a lot that’s really special about this unassuming plant like where and how it grows in Hampshire (and Dorset); fed by gentle chalk streams providing mineral rich spring water. Can’t think of a nicer place to be; hanging out with the otters and looking for fresh water trout. The watercress farmers are working together to make sure their practices support wildlife and the proof is: otters are back!  Meanwhile downtown in Alresford, a different kind of wildlife will be out on the streets, it’s going to be hectic, 15,000 people could turn up for the festival which celebrates the start of National Watercress Week. I know where I’d rather be but for the sake of soup I’ll be there!

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