Watercress, Blue Cheese and Orange Salad
Watercress is a wonderful British seasonal leaf that's in plentiful supply at the moment. Although it has seen a slight resurgence in popularity recently, and benefitted from a promotional campaign led by British farmers, it still doesn't reap the culinary credit it deserves. As salad leaves go, you can't get more exciting or tasty than watercress.
In the UK, watercress was heavily promoted during both World Wars when the country had to rely on home grown produce. Its popularity continued until well into the 1960s but waned significantly after that. By the end of the 20th century watercress cultivation in Britain had shrunk to 150 acres compared to 1000 acres 50 years earlier. Now often overlooked in favour of the more fashionable rocket, watercress is by far the superior of the two; both in terms of flavour and nutritional benefits.
Packed full of vitamins and minerals, this peppery leaf tastes great and is incredibly versatile in seasonal cooking. Liven up salads and sandwiches, blitz it into watercress soup or watercress sauce, toss it into pasta or stir fries or even add it to tarts and omelettes. It's also claimed that eating a bag of watercress will cure a hangover – although I'm not sure that's the first thing I'd reach for after a big night out! The Ancient Greeks as well as the Romans notably used watercress as a medicinal herb so perhaps there is an element of truth in it. And here's one to encourage the kids to eat it - Postman Pat's favourite sandwich is Watercress & Cheese!
Because of its strong, peppery taste, watercress pairs well with sweet or creamy ingredients like fruit and cheese. One of my favourite salad combos is watercress, blue cheese, and orange but you could use any seasonal fruit of your choice. Nectarines and peaches work really well in this dish in the summer months and you can even toss in a few strawberries to make it really colourful and vibrant.
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
150g blue cheese of your choice
1 bag of watercress
2 medium oranges
Pear, apple or any other fruit of your choice, sliced
Salt and pepper
Slice one and a half of the oranges into segments and squeeze the juice of the other half. Combine the juice with a little olive oil and a twist of salt and pepper to create a dressing.
Add the watercress, orange segments and pear slices to a bowl and crumble over the blue cheese. Drizzle the dressing over the top and toss everything together to combine. Serve immediately.