This recipe, adapted from Gordon Ramsay
, is distinctly different from its Chinese counterpart
. Unsurprisingly, it has a blander quality; there is no ginger, for one thing. And there is a surprise in the middle: a poached egg, beaming up at you like the sun
If, unlike me, you make this straightaway with fresh watercress, you will get a brilliant emerald puree flecked with many different shades of green. If, like me, you put off making it for a while and leave the watercress out on the table for one very hot day in an attempt to force yourself to get down to it, the wilted 'cress will yield a lighter green soup. Still tasty, but slightly less stunning to the eye.
Makes 4 servings. 2 tablespoons olive oil
250g watercress (about 4 bunches)
200g waxy potatoes (I used two smallish ones)
25g butter (2 tablespoons)
One litre/4.25 cups water
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Olive oil (to drizzle)
Ground black pepper
First, heat the olive oil in a pan and toss the watercress in to wilt. While it's wilting, you can finely slice the potatoes - you want them as thin as possible so they will cook quickly. You can use a mandolin for this, but I just used my chef's knife. If you want the brightest green possible you should peel them first or cut off the slivers of peel afterward.
Toss the potatoes in the pan and stir so that the potatoes are mainly touching the pan, not resting on top of the watercress. You want them to soften quickly. Add the butter ("for shine and flavor," Ramsay says).
While you wait for the potatoes to turn translucent, fill a small pan with your water and salt it a bit. You can use more or less water depending on the consistency you like, and you can adjust it later too. Bring it to a boil. Ramsay suggests pouring it over the watercress and potatoes at this point, but I don't like risking that in the frying pan I am using. I need a sauté pan. So I just scoop the 'taters and 'cress into the water. When it returns to a boil (in hardly a second, in my sturdy cast-iron pot), turn off the heat and break out an immersion blender.
If you don't have an immersion blender (also known as a stick blender), you can ladle it all into a standing blender or a food processor to puree the soup. But immersion blenders are fairly cheap, certainly much cheaper than a good sauté pan. And they are invaluable for making soup. I never had a smooth soup of my own devising before I bought this, because pouring everything into a blender in batches and finding a container in which to set it aside while I did the rest was just too exhausting to even contemplate. I dismissed it as poncy and fancy and useless. My soup is much better chunky! Totally chunky!
Emeril, of all people, converted me. In between his catchphrases and mugging and cooking things that I don't feel any need to cook, he breaks out his immersion blender all the time. He calls it his "boat motor," and watching him jam it into all kinds of soups, pestos, and dips and easily turn them into purees with no pouring or splashing, well, it made me a fan real fast.
In case you are wondering, this soup is not good chunky. At that point, what you are eating is variously shaped slices of potato and stemmy thready bits of watercress; it does not resemble soup so much as compost. It is blending this soup that turns it into the amazing foodstuff that it is.
So, you blend your soup. Taste carefully and adjust the seasoning with some salt and pepper to bring out the flavors of the 'cress. And then you poach your eggs, slipping them into some more boiling water with a tablespoonful of white vinegar. I tried to spin it to make that fancy whirlpool that supposedly will keep the egg together and wrap its tendrils around itself and all that fancy nonsense. Instead, I got in the way of myself, and spent too much time cracking the egg, and then dropped it in from above instead of slipping it into the water, and so I ended up with one whole yolk and a ton of dissociated egg whites. It worked well anyway; I didn't have to use my spoon to cut into the poached egg, because it was all cut up for me!
To serve, place one poached egg in the center of a bowl - a broad one is best, but a deep latte mug works too - and gently pour the soup into one side so it can glide around the egg. Ramsay suggests garnishing with a bit of reserved watercress and a drizzle of olive oil.
This soup is subtle but it has a ton of flavors vying for your attention. It has a warm, creamy taste, despite the pepperiness of fresh watercress. It goes perfectly with the poached egg underneath. You can taste the sort of lemony and peppery flavors of the watercress too. Try closing your eyes while you eat it and seeing how many different flavors you can distinguish. Congratulations: you have had a goodly number of your vegetables for the day. And enjoy!