A small perennial herb, Nasturtium officinale that is often found growing near running water, hence its common name. It also grows well in moist soil and enjoys a shady place in the garden. It grows to a height of 50 cm (16 in), belongs in the extensive mustard/Brassicaceae family and has vivid deep green foliage, each branch containing around 15 or so small leaves.
Watercress is a popular salad ingredient, used either on its own or in a mixture of salad leaves and herbs as in mesclun. It has an invigorating peppery taste that marries well to rich flavours. A very popular bistro dish in many Australian restaurants of late is a prime cut of steak, garnished with a few sprigs of watercress and some mustard or café de Paris butter.
I personally love it as a stand alone salad ingredient with a few snappy ingredients to match its peppery bite. A chef in Melbourne, Greg Malouf, uses watercress in lieu of parsley for his rendition of tabouleh. Try adding watercress to Footprints' tabouleh recipe, but don't tell him, as it is far from traditional. Or for a full-flavoured light meal that sings praise to the wonders of watercress, try the following simple recipe.
Watercress and goat's cheese salad
Wash and clean the watercress, a procedure that is dealt with here. Peel the eggs and cut into quarters. Chop the anchovy into small pieces. Mix together the oil, vinegar and seasonings. Place the watercress, half the goat's cheese, the anchovies into a bowl and top with the dressing. Toss well to combine and divide between 4 plates. Scatter with the eggs, sippets, capsicum and remaining goat's cheese.
Serve up with a dry sauvignon blanc that would play a treat with the goat's cheese and peppery notes of the watercress.