Watercress Soup

June 7, 2013

TONIGHT, my partner and I are hosting film-director James Ivory (“Howard’s End,” “A Room with a View,” “Maurice,” etc.) and seven of his friends for dinner. It’s Jim’s birthday, so I’m putting together a special, multi-course meal. First up? A deliciously-creamy Watercress Soup. My recipe for this beautiful brew:

I think Watercress Soup is the perfect way to begin any warm-weather dinner party. Why? Because you can make it up to two days ahead of time. Then, when guests arrive, you need only to ladle the chilled soup into cups, and decorate each serving with crumbled bacon, snipped chives, or a chive blossom.

It’s a lucky thing the soup is easy to make. You see, my butler has left me high and dry. (He ran off with my footman.) And Mrs. Johnson, whom I lovingly refer to as “Cook,” has been arrested for public drunkenness. Consequently I have to prepare and serve not only the soup, but the rest of tonight’s meal entirely by myself.

Disclaimer:

I do not have a butler.

I do not engage a footman.

Mrs. Johnson may be off on a bender somewhere, but she is certainly not employed by me.

Onto the soup!

Watercress Soup
Ingredients for about 4 cups of soup, serving 4 for a main course, or 8 as a first-course
2 Tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (tender white and green parts only; about 3 medium)
1 7-8 oz white or Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
3 cups (or more) low-salt chicken stock
2 cups (packed) coarsley chopped watercress
2 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
Garnish possibilities – dollops of sour cream or Greek yogurt; crumbled bacon; snipped chives, chive blossom petals — one or a combination of these will contribute both taste and decoration to individual servings

To start, thinly slice the white and tender green part of 3 medium leeks.

Then peel and dice a “boiling”-type potato, such as Yukon Gold.  (Russet potatoes, although lovely when baked, are too flour-y for this soup.)

Next, heat butter and oil in a large skillet set over a medium flame.

When the butter melts, add the leeks and potato. Cook until the leeks become slightly soft but not brown — about 5 minutes.

Now grab 3 cups of chicken stock, and pour it over the potato and leek mixture. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat and cover the skillet. Let simmer over a low flame until the veggies become perfectly tender — 10 to 12 minutes.

Meanwhile, ask your scullery maid to roughly chop the watercress.

Note: Most supermarkets sell watercress already washed and packaged in 4-ounce bags. That’s just the amount you’ll need for this recipe.

Can’t find watercress anywhere? Substitute arugula.

Can’t find arugula? Pour yourself a double gin and tonic, and forget all about this soup.

When lightly pressed down, the leaves should measure at least 2 cups.

If your scullery maid needs something to do, ask her to chop the spinach leaves. Otherwise, just leave them whole.

Dump the watercress and spinach into the skillet…

And stir them around until they wilt — about 1 minute. Remove the skillet from the heat.

Let the ingredients cool for 5 minutes or longer. Then blow the dust off of your electric blender, and puree the ingredients one cup at a time.

Transfer the soup to an ugly white bowl. If the puree is too thick for your liking, you can thin it out with more chicken stock.

Add salt and pepper to taste…

And finally, enrich the soup with one 1/4 cup of heavy cream.

Ahead of time note: If you are not serving this soup right away, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

You can serve the soup hot, warm, or cold.

Pour the soup into pretty soup cups.

Don’t own pretty soup cups? Use your pretty tea cups.

No pretty tea cups for you?

Get some! After all, you deserve to surround yourself with pretty things. Old, highly-ornate tea cups can be had for a song at junk-tique shops.

The possibilities of garnishing this soup are unlimited. You could, for instance, sprinkle the top with crisp, crumbled bacon…

Or, with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt…

And a sprinkling of freshly-snipped chives.

And speaking of chives…a chive-blossom will not only add tremendous color, but it will give the soup a wonderful onion-y taste.

Of course, if you’re in a violent mood, you could rip out the chive blossoms, and throw them over the soup.

Whatever embellishment you choose, one sip of this soup will cause a choir of angels to sing.

Need a copy-and-paste version of the above deliciousness? Here goes:

Watercress Soup
From Kevin Lee Jacobs, A Garden for the House (dot) com
Ingredients for about 4 cups of soup, serving 4 for a main course, or 8 as a first-course
2 Tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 cups thinly sliced leeks (tender white and green parts only; about 3 medium)
1 7-8 oz white or Yukon Gold potato, peeled and diced
3 cups (or more) low-salt or no-salt chicken stock
2 cups (packed) chopped watercress
2 cups (packed) baby spinach leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
Optional garnish – dollops of sour cream or Greek yogurt; crumbled bacon; snipped chives, chive blossom petals — one or a combination of these will contribute both taste and decoration to individual servings

In a large skillet set over a medium flame, heat the butter and oil. When the butter melts, add the leeks and diced potato. Saute until the leeks soften slightly — about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken stock to the skillet, and bring it to a boil. Then reduce heat, cover the skillet, and let simmer gently until the veggies are definitely tender — 10-12 minutes.

Add the watercress and spinach. Stir until the leaves wilt — about 1 minute.

Let cool for 5 minutes or longer, and then, one cup at a time, puree in a blender. Transfer the soup to a bowl.

Stir in the heavy cream; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Ahead of time note — if not serving right away, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Serving – Ladel the soup into small soup cups, tea cups, or demitasse cups. Garnish with any of the following: a dollop of sour cream, freshly-chopped chives, crisp, crumbled bacon, the petals of a chive blossom.

Oh. In case you’re wondering, here’s the complete menu for tonight’s dinner party:

First Course: Watercress Soup
Second Course: Chicken & Mushrooms in Tarragon Cream
Third Course: Salad Greens
Fourth Course: Assorted cheeses
Fifth Course: Strawberry Souffle

Think you’ll try the Watercress Soup? You can let me know by leaving a comment. As always, I love hearing from you.

Don’t miss anything at A Garden for the House…sign up for Kevin’s weekly email updates.

Related Posts:
Bacon-Wrapped Grissini
Chicken and Mushrooms in Tarragon Cream
Awesome Almond Biscotti

Comments

  1. Eric says:

    Sounds delicious. Will make! Love the garnishings, too.

  2. ken says:

    Kevin, thanks for this great recipe. Easy enough for me to make, and my supermarket sells watercress in bags.

  3. Scott Trudell says:

    Kevin… What is the china pattern you show here in the watercress soup recipe? It looks familiar… Is it a Grosvenor patern?

  4. Hi Scott – The china is Minton; the pattern is “Ardmore.”

  5. Gavi ... says:

    I’m dying for my watercress to come up! I WILL be making this beautiful soup :) Very creative to use Chive blossom petals. Excellent job Kevin… (as usual ;)

  6. Louise Brouillette says:

    Holy cow, what a dinner party! The soup looks wonderful, as does the rest of the menu, Kevin. Please update us tomorrow on how it went–my favorite gardener and one of my favorite directors at dinner–heavenly!

  7. Patti says:

    Well, now I have to go on a search for watercress in our local grocery stores! I have never had a recipe that called for watercress before so I hope I can find it! If not, I know I can find arugula. The menu for your meal this evening sounds delicious!

  8. Cary says:

    Kevin, this looks amazing! I think I have everything, or fine substitutes, in the garden now. Thanks for sharing this delightful idea. I think we must make this this week! Your party sounds terrific. Have a blast!

  9. Annie B says:

    Soup sounds wonderful…will have to search for watercress. We used to eat it straight from the cold creek when I was a child. Love the humor. Enjoy yourselves!

  10. Vicki says:

    I have made watercress soup before, but your recipe looks better. Can’t wait to try it!

  11. Julie B says:

    I would be tempted to try a garnish of nasturtium blossoms in lieu of chive blossoms – depending in one’s colour scheme, of course.

    I definitely want to try this soon.

  12. Cherylann McGuire says:

    You know, this recipe must have been in the back of my mind this morning when I went to the farmer’s market. I bought a bunch of watercress and cannot wait to try this! (I got a batch of shitake mushrooms as well!) Thanks very much for your inspiration.

  13. Lisa G says:

    Looks tasty, I think I’ll find some watercress and try it! The suggestion to sub in arugula bothers me a little tiny bit…I find arugula to be extremely bitter – is watercress also bitter? If so, I may make the soup with spinach and green-leaf lettuce! Hahaha!

  14. jeniren says:

    Incredible This all sounds so wonderful. I look forward to hearing how the night went . Joke about the staff lets us know you are doing it by yourself, how clever and multiskilled are you. I a world of staffed houses there would have been so many people employed to do what you do on your own, in the house and in the garden.

  15. Kate says:

    This dish looks tasty! Thank you for sharing!

  16. Oriane says:

    Bonjour Kevin,

    Thanks for the humor, I needed a good laugh.

    This looks like an Oscar wining night; fabulous guests, great menu and a happy celebration!

    Wishing you and your esteemed guest a bonne soirée and a joyeux anniversaire to Jim.

  17. Cathy in Cleveland says:

    Can I use greek yogurt instead of heavy cream in this recipe?

    Thanks!

  18. steph says:

    Love this! Thank you kindly! Will share on my Face Book Page One Minute Healings. May I add since I just bought some lovely watercress for my green drink but will now use instead in this wonderful soup;
    Eat delicious/Stay healthy!

    Boosts Immune System
    The high levels of vitamin C in watercress boost the immune system and help fight off viral infection like the common cold.

    Fights Infection
    Research shows watercress may be an effective antibiotic. It helps the body fight candida and other bacteria in the colon and intestines.

    Anti-Viral
    Watercress may have great anti-viral effects. It has been used to treat bronchitis, coughs, the common cold and flu.

    Digestive Health
    The chlorophyll in watercress leaves contains many great digestive enzymes. These enzymes are also thought to help the body absorb nutrients during digestion. The leaves must be eaten raw as cooking them destroys these enzymes.

    Bone and Dental Health
    The rich calcium content of watercress should aid in keeping bones and teeth healthy and strong while helping to prevent osteoporosis.

    Skin Health
    Watercress may help clear acne and improve skin complexion when taken internally or applied as a lotion. It may even provide relief from skin conditions such as eczema and scabies.

    Weight Loss
    The high potassium content of watercress is thought by some to aid in weight loss. However, there is no evidence that potassium alone will help

  19. Sarah says:

    I’m off on a 15 mile drive and two mile hike to collect wild watercress from a seep that flows out from the side of an ancient glacial ravine. I was just there yesterday picking through the maidenhair ferns to collect a handful of cress to munch. If only I had gotten your post one day sooner! Ah, well, a hike thru giant pines and oak savannah is always a good idea. The cress will taste even better for the walk!!

    Our groceries DO NOT carry cress, or arugula for that matter!

  20. Carole says:

    Wow, Kevin. We have company coming in a couple of weeks and we have spinach, arugula, and leeks in the garden! The only problem is that the spinach and leeks need to be harvested NOW, but the leeks aren’t big enough for us to want to harvest quite yet. Do you know if there’s any reason I couldn’t pick and measure out the spinach and arugula and freeze them until the leeks are ready?

  21. Orianne – Bonjour!

    Cathy in Cleveland – I think that plain yogurt or Greek yogurt could certainly sub for the cream.

    Steph – Yep. Watercress is a “super-food”!

    Sarah – Now that’s what I call devotion!

    Carole – Since your arugula and spinach are ready, maybe substitute a large, white onion for the 3 medium leeks. Then you can try the soup right away.

  22. Wendy says:

    Can’t wait to try your recipe, Kevin.
    We loved your garden tour.
    Wendy & Gary

  23. Amy says:

    I needed a good chuckle this morning! The soup looks lovely! I’m scouring through your recipes to find some goodies for a tea party I’ll be attending in a few weeks. The scones are already on the list.

  24. Claudia says:

    Sounds absolutely lovely, I will try it, thank you!

  25. vivian says:

    As always looks lovely and delicious.

  26. Sybil Strawser says:

    Made the watercress soup a few days after seeing this….YUM!! A new favorite! :)

  27. Hi Sybil – So glad you tried — and liked — the soup.

  28. elinfl says:

    Kevin, not a big deal, but your copy and paste version includes heavy cream as an ingredient but doesn’t include the step when it is added. Fortunately, your delightful narrative includes the step. I make a very similar soup (vichyssoise) with asparagus. Anxious to try your soup, and the menu.

  29. elinfl – Fixed. And thank you.

  30. Elaine says:

    I have to tell you that Room With a View is one of my all time favorite romantic comedic movies, and Maggie Smith is delightful as always.

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