Green, Glorious & Good For Every Body

22nd April 2016

When it comes to a salad leaf that’s truly good for you, look no further than watercress. Bursting with vitamins and minerals, this peppery little leaf is a natural superfood. Pile it into sandwiches, toss into salads, use it to make a wonderful soup or sauce, wilt into pastas or stir fries… it’s very versatile and tastes great too. Whatever you do, don’t just let it languish on the side of the plate as a garnish…

Here’s a great selection of ideas to whet your watercress appetite.

Full recipe details are on our website: www.optimamagazine.co.uk

Watercress Brunch with Bacon, Egg & Hot Sauce

This brunch dish is great for lazy weekend mornings, and only uses a handful of ingredients to create a flavoursome start to the day.
Serves: 2
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

You’ll need

2 eggs
4 rashers smoked streaky bacon
2 slices sourdough bread
2 tsps butter
2 handfuls watercress
hot sauce to serve

What to do

Bring a pan of water to a simmer, add the eggs and simmer for 3 mins then put the lid on and turn off the heat, leave to stand for 2 mins.

Meanwhile heat the grill and cook the bacon on both sides until crispy. Toast the bread and butter it.

When the eggs are cooked run them under cold water until they are cool enough to handle then peel off the shells.

To build your brunch, put a handful of watercress on top of each slice of toast, top each with 2 pieces of bacon, then slice the peeled egg and lay it on top of the bacon. Serve with a dash of hot sauce.

Chorizo, Watercress & Red Pepper Tart

A great colourful centrepiece requiring minimum effort. The flavour combination of peppery watercress, smoky chorizo and sweet roasted peppers is a crowd-pleaser.
Serves: 4
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

You’ll need

1 sheet ready-rolled puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
80g chorizo
85g watercress
120ml crème fraiche
2 roasted peppers (from a jar is fine)
100g mozzarella

What to do

Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas 7.

Lay the pastry onto a baking sheet score around the edge to make a 1cm border. Brush with egg wash then cook in the oven for 8 minutes until just golden.

While the pastry cooks, cut the chorizo into slices the thickness of a pound coin and cook in a hot frying pan until browned, remove from the pan and set aside. Tip away most of the chorizo fat, leaving behind just a coating on the pan. Reduce the heat and add the watercress. Toss over the heat until just wilted then remove from the pan to a bowl or plate and use a knife and fork to roughly chop then season. Slice the roasted peppers.

Once the pastry is cooked remove from the oven and gently press down the risen centre. Spread the crème fraiche over the tart, leaving the borders clear, then scatter over the wilted watercress, peppers and chorizo. Finally, tear the mozzarella over the top and return to the oven for 8-10 minutes until hot and bubbling.

Watercress with Balsamic Roasted Shallots & Brie

A fresh take on the classic cheese and nut salad combo, with a balsamic zing for good measure
Serves: 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

You’ll need

12 shallots, peeled
4tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 sprig of thyme
1tbsp olive oil
2tsp sugar
2 tbsp whole, blanched hazelnuts
150g brie, sliced
85g watercress

What to do

Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/Gas 7. Put the shallots in a small roasting tin. In a small bowl whisk together the balsamic vinegar, thyme leaves, oil and sugar and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over the shallots, cover with foil, and roast in the oven for 30 minutes, basting twice.

Meanwhile toast the hazelnuts in a dry frying pan until golden all over, roughly chop and set aside.

Once the shallots are cooked allow to cool for 5 minutes, tip the watercress onto a serving plate and arrange the shallots and brie over the top. Scatter with the hazelnuts and dress with the balsamic juices from the shallot pan.

Watercress & Pumpkin Seed Pesto with Spaghetti & Prawns

Pesto pasta is given a flavoursome makeover with this peppery watercress pesto and juicy prawns
Serves: 2 (with leftover pesto)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

You’ll need

180g spaghetti
85g pumpkin seeds
85g parmesan, grated
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
85g watercress
1 lemon
300ml olive oil

What to do

Bring a large pan of water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to pack instructions.

Toast the seeds in a dry frying pan until they begin to pop. Blend the toasted seeds, parmesan, garlic, watercress, lemon zest and juice along with half of the oil, in a food processor until you have a thick paste. As its blending, add more oil until it becomes drizzling consistency.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and toss it in the pan with the cooked prawns and enough pesto to coat the spaghetti. Warm thorough and serve with a fresh watercress salad.

Cook’s Tip: The recipe will make around 450ml of pesto; any excess will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for a week.

Watercress and Mushroom Sliders

A meat-free dish that leaves everyone satisfied with the seriously big flavours on offer
Serves: 4
Preparation time: 5 minutes + marinating
Cooking time: 15 minutes

You’ll need

2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 Portobello mushrooms, stalks trimmed
85g watercress
100g creamy blue cheese such as Gorgonzola
6 small rolls, sliced horizontally
Your choice of lettuce, tomatoes, onion etc to serve

What to do

Mix the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and garlic together with salt and pepper. Pour half into a dish that will hold all of the mushrooms. Put the mushrooms in and drizzle over the remaining dressing. Cover and leave to marinate for an hour, moving them around once or twice to make sure they’re coated.

When ready to cook, heat the grill and put the mushrooms on a shallow baking tray gill side down. Grill for 5 minutes, then turn and cook the other side for 2 minutes.

While they are cooking, put the watercress into a bowl and cover with boiling water, leave for 1 minute until wilted, then drain on some kitchen roll.

Once the mushrooms are cooked, fill each one with watercress and top with the cheese. Return to the grill along with the rolls, cut side up.

When the rolls are toasted and the cheese is bubbling, place a mushroom inside each roll to make the burgers and serve immediately with your choice of fillings.

Roast Chicken and Watercress Platter

A light, healthy version of a Sunday lunch: succulent roast chicken on a Mediterranean-style salad
Serves: 4
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hr 30 minutes

You’ll need

50g salted butter at room temperature
1 lemon
4-5 sprigs thyme
1.8kg chicken
1 bag watercress
1 bunch spring onions
16 black olives
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp Fussels rapeseed oil
¼ clove garlic, crushed

What to do

Heat the oven to 190C/170C Fan/Gas 5.

Beat together the butter, lemon zest, leaves of the thyme and a good pinch of black pepper. Gently lift the chicken skin from over the breast meat at the end closest to the legs and use your hands to spread the butter over the meat, under the skin.

Cut the lemon in half, squeeze out the juice and set aside to use later then put the lemon, along with the thyme twigs, inside the chicken cavity. Sprinkle a little salt over the skin and roast in the preheated oven for 1hour 45 minutes, basting twice with the cooking juices during roasting. Once cooked, remove from the oven and set aside to rest.

Put the watercress in a large bowl, add the sliced spring onions, halved cherry tomatoes and olives. Combine the reserved lemon juice with the rapeseed oil and crushed garlic. Leave 2 tablespoons of dressing in the bowl and use the rest to dress the watercress. Toss well and load onto a serving platter.

Carve the chicken and arrange the meat on the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and serve.

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