What I had for dinner:

Watercress Soup

[ Previous ] 19 May 1994 22:12:12 -0400 [   Next   ]

Last night, I met my friend Joe downtown; we were going to try El Cid, on 15th street, but at 7 pm on a Wednesday they insisted on a reservation (and they had 4 empty tables at least), so we went to Tea and Sympathy instead. Now, I would have prefered Café de Bruxelles, next door, if only for the fries (By the way, have you noticed the new soc.culture.belgium? It's hilarious. Half the newsgroup is trying to decide whether to split into s.c.b.flemish and s.c.b.walloon, and the other half is trying to decide what is the most typical Belgian food. Highly recommended if you can wing either language.), but anyway I also happen to like English food.

Somehow, during my wandering days through England and Wales I never encountered truly bad food, the stuff that the words "English food" seems to evoke in the minds of people (and that was 25 years ago. Things have got better since, I'm told, but I haven't made it out of London recently). Fancy it is not, quite granted, but as "country fare" goes, I could live easily on savoury pies, roasts, grills, let alone such things as scones and crumpets and puddings.

Anyway, I had a mixed grill (sans kidneys, thankfully) with homemade mash, tomato, and mushrooms, and a glass of lemonade (English, that is: the stuff that goes in shandy, not the stuff with actual lemon in it. I wanted a Bitter Lemon, but they seem to be perpetually out of it; I wonder whether they keep it on the menu merely because it's quaint.)

Therefore, today I definitely had to aim for something lighter. The choice was narrowed to asparagus soup or watercress soup, and the watercress won for no good reason at all.

Traditionally, French watercress soup is a clear soup with chopped watercress, cubed potatoes, and lots of cream. The latter was out, for obvious reasons, but I like soups with a solid body, so I used the potato to provide it: I first heated, in a little oil, a bay leaf, a little mace, and three cloves of garlic (sliced), then added 1 1/2 pints of water, one Idaho potato cut in slices, and most of a bunch of watercress, reserving a handful of trimmed leaves. The whole Gemisch was cooked until the potato fell apart.

Meanwhile, I cooked in olive oil over very low heat one Spanish onion, sliced thin, until it started to caramelize. Potato and watercress were puréed thoroughly in a food processor, and added through a sieve to the onions with all their liquid, together with 1/2 tsp of caraway seeds. The soup was brought back to a boil, the reserved watercress leaves added as a garnish, salt and pepper to taste, and that was it, ready for dinner. Two large bowlfuls for one hearty dinner with some sourdough bread. Of course a salad to add some more fiber. We're trying to be healthy, here!

To drink, a bottle of Chimay Trappist ale. (Back to Belgium, I see.)

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