N: Water Cress is the cress of the water. It not only grows in alkaline water but also needs moisture when it is transported. When packaging was not well developed it was impossible to transport these delicate leaves and water cress was only sold near its source of origin. Today water cress leaves are transported in small plastic bags with drops of moisture and they start appearing on the shelves of the supermarkets in the beginning of April. The water cress has a peppery and slightly bitter taste and the hollow stems give them an extra crunch.
The first summer salad made with water cress heralds the pleasure of long warm sunny days ahead. The yarning for long summer days in a cold country is very similar to the yarning for mild winter sun in a hot region of the world after a long period of scorching hot summer. For me water cress evokes the same feelings as having the first koraishutir kochuri (peas kachori) of the winter season in Kolkata. It has the promise that good things will happen in the next few months
The recipe is for 2 people and takes about 30 mins to prepare and is best served warm under the promising May summer sun.
Start with about 8 medium sized potatoes (4 per person). I like to use New potatoes or Charlotte potatoes – both quite good to eat as salads. Wash them well to remove any residual soil from the skin and cut into halves. I do not peel potatoes as both A and I love to eat potatoes with skin on them. Some of our friends think that this is just an indication of how lazy we are :-). Cover the halved potatoes with plenty of water in a sauce pan, add some salt and bring to boil. The potatoes should cook for about 15/20 minutes.
Prepare the dressing by mixing together 1 tbsp each of honey, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard and 2 tbsp of olive oil. If you like your mustard strong you can mix a little English mustard too. Mix well and set aside.
The original recipe called for 1 cup of watercress leaves, about 3 small radishes chopped and a few capers. I generally avoid the capers and the radishes as I mostly do not have them at hand but use 50 gms of watercress instead.
Thinly slice 2 celery sticks and one small onion and put them in a large salad bowl. Add the water cress and mix well.
Check the potatoes to ensure they are well cooked but are still holding their shape. Drain the water and run some cold water over the potatoes to arrest further cooking. Transfer the potatoes to the salad bowl and mix well. The heat and the starch of the potatoes will wilt the leaves and bring together the crunch bits. Add the dressing, extra salt if necessary, and mix some more.
A bowl of this salad is great seated outdoors in a park or a garden on a sunny day.