My fellow Americans, admit it. We are prejudiced when it comes to British cuisine. There are even some who find those two words to be oxymoronic. I confess it, I
am was one of them. I plead peer pressure. I cannot tell you how many times friends, upon our departure for Oxford, warned us about the food. The phrases ring in my ears, such as “weird,” “boring,” “bland,” and “meat-and-potatoes.” We look down from the regions of superior food, food created in a veritable melting pot of cultures, and think we can judge. If only all food was as tasty as American food, right? Food like apple pie (which we did not invent) and the cheeseburger (which we did).
Yet after we arrived here I realized that, strangely enough, many of these warnings came from people who had not spent time in England. (I begin to wonder, have I warned people about British food?) It is perhaps true that England is not known for the best cooking in the world. You don’t hear of restaurants opening up with an “English chef” (another oxymoron?). But can I, an American, prove it guilty of tastelessness without a fair trial? This chef wannabe is on a mission: eat British food.
My first experiences seemed to confirm the stereotypes. (Two words: salt and pepper.) But these were fairly superficial. I’m not finished yet. My sous chef, Alex, played into my hands by giving me a book, The British Cookbook. Here we go. I started with watercress soup.
Watercress, potatoes, onions, crème fraîche, nutmeg.
The verdict? It was absolutely delicious. I hate eating the same thing twice in a month, and I could eat this every day. Fresh, flavorful, healthy, easy. Make this and eat it.
2 bunches watercress
1.5 oz. butter
2 onions, chopped
8 oz. potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 pints vegetable stock or water
salt and pepper
crème fraîche (or I think you could substitute yogurt or sour cream)
olive oil (I didn’t use this)
Remove leaves/tops of watercress stalks and keep on one side. Roughly chop the stalks. Melt the butter in large saucepan over medium, add onions and cook until soft (4-5 min.). Do not brown.
Add the potato to the saucepan and mix well. Add the watercress stalks and the stock. Bring to boil and then reduce heat, cover, and simmer 15-20 minutes until potato is soft.
Add watercress leaves and stir in to heat through. Remove from heat and use hand-held blender or process through your blender. Reheat/return to heat. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste.
Serve with a swirl of crème fraîche and a pinch of nutmeg. Can also drizzle with olive oil.
Eat it and say five times over, “British food can be yummy.”