Yesterday’s mild, fragrant air sprung the desire in me to knock up a simple watercress soup – something fresh and green, but warm, for a cool and light evening. My friend Anna, who’s been tussling with her little Brixton garden, had a whole carrier bag of wild garlic to give away which I happily cycled by to collect. The flavour is incredible – bright and intense, very garlicky – and to think it had been growing madly in her beds and about to bloom into white flowers, unrecognised, is quite amazing. I was suprised to find that the bundle was all broad leaves with very slim, clean stems and the occasional tiny bulb at the end, not unlike spring onion. The stem and leaves can be used in their entirety and just need a good wash and pat dry before cooking. Have a bite at the leaves as you go – they’re suprisingly moreish.
This recipe is so simple it makes perfect use of the peppery intensity of both ingredients and yet ends up with a gentle soup that leaves you with plenty of time to enjoy the new evening light. A great celebration of our clocks going forward. If you don’t have wild garlic to hand (which I realise is unlikely) just use a couple of garlic cloves, fresh ones even better if you can find them in good supermarkets or markets.
Sweat a medium-large diced white onion in a knob of butter and glug of olive oil on a low heat, adding a few torn garlic leaves. Add a peeled and diced potato and a handful of watercress after a few minutes and allow everything to soften for 5 or 10 more, stirring occasionally to unstick the pan. Pour over about 1l of vegetable stock, turn the heat up to boil and then down to simmer again. As soon as the potato is soft enough to spear with a knife, throw in a few handfuls of watercress and another small one of wild garlic leaves and take off the heat. Pour in a cup of milk and blitz in a food processor. Taste for seasoning, adjust and add any remaining watercress or garlic leaves to taste. The soup’s simple flavours will only be apparent once it’s blended, so this is the opportunity to add whatever it needs. Just make sure that whichever greens you throw in aren’t in a hot pot for more than a few seconds or you’ll decimate their vitamins and knock the life out of it. I mopped it all up with a couple of slices of grilled caraway sourdough left over from Good Friday’s brunch, which I rubbed with a garlic clove and olive oil.