8 Mar 2010
After recently researching Watercress for a project in work I was surprised to find what a long culinary tradition we have in Britain of using watercress. I have heard it hailed as one of the natural ‘superfoods’ in recent years but it appears people as far back as the ancient Greeks were aware of how nutritious it is. Did you know gram for gram watercress contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas? Of course I immediately vowed to eat more.
The dark green leafy plant with its distinct mustardy flavour has hardly changed since Roman times. In the UK it is farmed in mineral rich spring water in a very natural environment largely in the south east of England, and about this time of year starts to appear at farmers markets. This watercress with its vibrant colour and substantial stalks is a far cry from its insipid cousin found alongside the bagged salad in the supermarket. I came across some a few days ago and immediately made up this pesto to have with a simple bowl of pasta for lunch as I love the strong peppery flavour so much its nice to keep it simple. I plan to use the left over pesto as a topping for grilled mackerel, it can also be used in any way you’d use a basil pesto.
Watercress & walnut pesto
Makes enough pesto for roughly 4 bowls of pasta
Large bunch of watercress, 100g approx
2 cloves of garlic
100ml extra virgin olive oil
50g parmesan cheese
Sea salt & freshly ground pepper
The best way to make pesto is to chop the ingredients by hand. Time consuming – yes, but also rewarding! The result is a course pesto in which all the ingredients can still be identified, most importantly in the flavour.
Wash the watercress thoroughly removing the very end of the stalks and drain, then peel and roughly chop the garlic. Using a large knife chop the watercress, garlic and walnuts until the mixture forms a course paste yet the individual ingredients are still recognisable. You can do this one ingredient at a time and add to a bowl or combine them little at a time on a large chopping board. Once chopped add the olive oil and freshly grate the parmesan into the mixture. Lightly combine and season to taste.
The quick way is to blitz in the food processor, if doing this add the first three ingredients bit at a time and pulse until roughly chopped being careful not to turn the pesto into a smooth paste. Then place the pesto in a bowl before adding the oil, freshly grated parmesan and seasoning to taste.
If storing the pesto keep in an airtight container and cover with a thin layer of olive oil. This way it will keep in the fridge for several days.
Like all food the quality of the end product here relies on the quality of the ingredients that go into making it. Use the freshest and best ingredients you can find and you won’t be disappointed!