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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fertiliser soup - soupe de cresson

Inspiration arrives from the strangest of places. This time, it came from watching a super cute animation on YouTube. In the clip, a boy tells a story about a soup his grandmother makes. He doesn't like it. It's green and it smells bad, he begins the story. He refuses to eat it, despite his grandparents' insistent that it will help him grow. Or perhaps because of it. No, I'm not going to spoil the story for you. You'll just have to watch it yourself.

I've been craving a fertilizer soup of my own ever since. Then, another inspiration struck when I saw beautiful watercress at the market on Saturday. So, I made myself a bowl of watercress soup, bright green, zingy, just delicious.


Watercress Soup
La soupe à l'engrais

125g (4oz, or 3 loosely packed cups) watercress, leafs only, no stems
1 medium onion, diced
5 dl (2 cups) chicken broth
2 thick slices of bread, trimmed and toasted
2.5 dl (1 cup) cream
2 tbsp butter

It's a bit tricky, making a watercress soup. If you're not careful, you'll end up with bitter, astringent soup that would make even the most ardent fan of watercress cringe. And you can't cook it too much, or the bright green color would turn into a dark, depressing shade of gray - a whole other kind of fertilizer that neither you nor I like.

I make my watercress soup by only cooking half the amount of the watercress. I start with a base of caramelized onions - cook the onion dices low and slow with butter to caramel-y gooey goodness. Then add half the amount of the watercress and a bit of salt, and saute until wilted, for a couple of minutes.

The next to go in are toasted bread, flavorful chicken broth and a bit of salt. Bring this to a boil and add the cream. Give it a taste and add salt or pepper if needed. Then I pour the bubbling, boiling liquid into the blender which I've already filled with the rest of the watercress leafs, letting the hot liquid finish the cooking for us. Blend until smooth. I love to serve the soup with a dollop of crème fraîche or yogurt. A spoonful of mascapone works well too if you like to add a little sweetness.


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