National Watercress Week (11-17 May) starts on Sunday, on which day the 6th Annual Watercress Festival will be held in Alresford, Hampshire. It is 200 years since William Bradbury opened the first British watercress farm in Kent.
Watercress is one of the often-mentioned super foods, being high in iron, vitamin C, folic acid, vitamin A and calcium. It is grown in spring water, rich in minerals, particularly in Hampshire and Dorset. It has a peppery flavour which goes very well with garlic, chilli or ginger, as well as fish, chicken and cheese. It can be made into a pesto to be brushed over focaccia.
When used in baking, watercress adds flavour and colour. Use it in quiches with salmon or chicken, in a tart with spinach and feta cheese or in pies. It can be used in place of spinach in many recipes and goes well with butternut squash and lentils in a vegetarian filo strudel or pasty. Add it to a bread mix with cooked onions to make rolls. Chopped watercress can be added very successfully to cheese scones or cornbreads as well as savoury muffins to serve with soup.
* Fiona Burrell, co-author of Leiths Baking Bible, from the world-famous Leiths School of Food and Wine