This week I was delighted to find big, bright and beautiful bunches of peppery, emerald green watercress gracing the stalls at our local Farmer’s Market. A delicate salad leaf it has a very short season here in Australia, its availability usually limited from October to December.
Earlier this year researchers at William Patersen University in New Jersey tested and ranked 47 different powerhouse fruits and vegetables according to nutritional value in a bid to find an overall superfood. The list contained all the usual suspects kale, spinach, rocket, chard, pumpkin, capsicum, beetroot, tomato, brussels sprouts, cabbage and broccoli but quite surprisingly watercress trumps them all. Time magazine reported on the findings in an article 41 Superfoods, Ranked By How Healthy They Are and it makes for very interesting reading. Trendy kale, for example, haled as the darling of 2013 comes in at number 15.
Watercress makes a wonderful addition to salads and is delicious in Asian style stir fries paired with garlic, chilli and ginger. Here I have adapted it to one of my favourite soups, substituting watercress for rocket in Pea and Rocket Soup. As watercress is far more delicate than rocket it only needs to be wilted rather than cooked, particularly important to retain all its nutritional benefits. Hence it’s added to the hot pea soup at the very end for a final pulse in the blender. Given this is a fast day offering I’ve also omitted using parmesan cheese, choosing to prepare a deliciously creamy but dairy free alternative that comes in at just 116 calories per cup serve.
Dairy Free Pea And Watercress Soup
Makes 6 cups (116 calories per serve)
1 tablespoon olive oil (120 calories)
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, finely chopped (54 calories)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped (4 calories)
500g peas, freshly podded or frozen (405 calories)
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped (4 calories)
1/4 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped (4 calories)
4 cups (1 litre) hot vegetable or chicken stock, preferably home-made (80 calories)
1 bunch (200g) watercress (22 calories)
sea salt and pepper
HEAT oil in a large pan over medium heat.
ADD onion and garlic. Sauté until transparent and soft, about 5 minutes.
ADD peas, parsley and mint. Sauté until herbs have wilted, then add hot stock.
REDUCE heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
COOL slightly, place three quarters of the pea soup mixture into a food processor or blender and pulse until smooth,
ROUGHLY chop three quarters of the watercress, reserving remainder for garnish. ADD chopped watercress to the puréed pea mixture. Continue to blend or process until smooth.
RETURN the puréed peas and watercress to the remaining soup, stirring well to combine.
SEASON with sea salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and garnish with reserved watercress.