Watercress soup

This is one of those dreamy soups that is delicious eaten chilled in summer and hot in winter. It comes from my book Simply British (see Books) and is perfect for vegetarians as it needs no stock. I love eating it for lunch with crusty bread, followed by fruit and cheese, but it also makes a lovely starter.  

Serves 4

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 large potatoes, peeled and diced

600g leeks

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 large bunch watercress or 170g packet of watercress

285ml single cream


6 watercress sprigs


1 Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently fry the garlic for a few seconds before stirring in the diced potatoes.  Make sure they are well coated with oil before cooking over a low heat for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until they begin to soften.


2 Meanwhile trim the leeks and remove their tough outer leaves.  Discard the dark green tops and finely slice the white and pale green stems.  Wash thoroughly in several changes of water and drain well.  Add to the potatoes and continue to fry for a further 5 minutes or until soft.


3 Add 710ml hot water and season to taste.  Bring to the boil, then simmer over a moderate heat for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are very soft.


4 While the soup is cooking, wash the watercress.  Set aside 6 sprigs wrap them in damp kitchen paper, slip into a plastic bag and keep in the fridge.  Pick off all the leaves of the remaining watercress.  Discard the stems (they are always impossible to liquidize), then add the leaves to the soft vegetables.  Allow to cook for a further 2 minutes, then immediately liquidize and pour into a clean container.  This will keep the soup a pretty fresh green.


5 If you are serving the soup cold you can add the cream at this stage; otherwise reheat when needed before adding the cream.  Do not let the single cream come to the boil or it will split.  Adjust the seasoning and serve.  Garnish the individual bowls of soup with the watercress sprigs. 

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