There is a tiny place on the west coast of New Zealand not far north of Raglan which holds a special place in my heart. A good friend of mine calls this place home and for close to 20 years now I have been fortunate enough to be able to escape the big, bad city and spend whole weekends there free of the intrusions of the digital world. Time slows, shoulders drop and days are spent unhurriedly, eating good food, taking in the fresh air, riding horses, walking through pockets beautiful native bush, all in wonderful company.
The last time we visited we were sent home with bags of beautiful coffee, roasted locally, garden greens and an armful of watercress picked from the road's edge. A dark-green watercress with a deliciously peppery flavour which we used in sandwiches and salads. I had the best of intentions of turning it into pesto....perhaps next time! The recipe below is also a wonderful way of using watercress. Spinach would make a good substitute if you can't find watercress.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
500g potatoes, peeled, roughly cubed
1 litre chicken stock
200g watercress (or use spinach)
100ml cream, plus extra for drizzling
Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and over a medium heat fry the onion, leek and garlic until soft and translucent. Take your time doing this – a longer, slower cook helps to develop the sweetness. Add the potatoes, pour in the chicken stock and let simmer until the potato is soft.
While the potato cooks put the watercress (reserve a few leaves to serve) in another saucepan and let it wilt over a high heat . This will only take about a minute. Remove from the heat and using a stick an immersion blender, whiz the wilted watercress up with a ladleful of the soup stock until smooth.
Pour the cream into a saucepan and heat until almost boiling. Blend the stock and potato soup base with the stick blender then pour in the cream and the blended watercress, blending again to just combine. Season to taste and serve with a drizzle of cream and a sprig of watercress.