Wild garlic may have gone and basil isn’t yet out, but there is another herby green to fill the pesto gap. Cue watercress. Watercress pesto is super scrumptious and you can use it just as you would any other pesto.
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Watercress is a delicious green salad or cooking leaf and it’s packed full of nutrients. It mostly grows in the clear chalk streams of Dorset and Hampshire. So now I’m living in the New Forest, I can claim it’s a local product.
To enjoy watercress at its best, eat it fresh and in season. Here in the UK this is usually from April to October. It doesn’t last very long, so it’s best to eat it within a couple of days of purchase. Wrap the stems in damp kitchen paper, then place into a sealed container or plastic bag. Keep it in the bottom drawer of the fridge until you’re ready to use it.
The leaves are soft and succulent but have a powerful peppery flavour. But don’t discard the stems, they’re crunchy and easy to eat. I normally enjoy watercress as a salad or stuffed into sandwiches. It’s absolutely perfect in my cheese baps.
Last week, I was sent a box of watercress to try out. The bunches were wrapped in new home-composting packaging, which pleased me greatly. At the moment most watercress is sold in plastic bags. Anyway, as I had an abundance of watercress, I felt justified in developing a few recipes. This watercress pesto is my favourite.
Health Benefits of Watercress
The industry claims a number of health benefits for watercress. Certainly, I’ve always known it as a superfood. Here they are:
- High in vitamin C, which is great for boosting the immune system and reducing fatigue. I have to say that after I’d eaten watercress several days on the trot, I seemed to have bags more energy than normal. But I don’t know if that was down to the watercress or just incidental.
- Reduces DNA damage which lowers the chance of developing some cancers.
- High in vitamin A, which is beneficial for eyes and skin health.
- Increases elasticity in the blood vessels, which reduces blood pressure.
- Loaded with antioxidants which supports natural detoxification of the body.
Some pestos, such as the classic Genovese pesto are best when they retain a little texture. But watercress makes a superbly fine pesto sauce. It has a light, fresh and spring like flavour. The peppery notes are present, but much less powerful than when eating the leaves straight. And the vibrant green colour is just delightful.
Pesto is incredibly versatile and you can use this watercress pesto just as you would any other. Use it as a pasta sauce, in a risotto or spread it on crackers.
As I had so much watercress, I made double quantities of the recipe I’ve given below. I used some of it in one of the new recipes I’ve developed, but mostly we’re eating it on crackers. It’s just so delicious.
The recipe is really easy. It’s just a case of blending everything together. Once made, scoop into a sterilised jar and store in the fridge for up to three days.
If you want to keep the pesto for longer, seal the top with a layer of olive oil before closing the lid. If properly sealed, this should keep for a week or even two in the fridge. Alternatively you can freeze it. Head over to my wild garlic pesto post to see how.
What Ingredients Do You Need to Make Watercress Pesto?
Well of course watercress is a must when it comes to watercress pesto. It’s always good to use a well flavoured extra virgin olive oil too. But when it comes to the other ingredients, you can be more flexible. If you don’t have fresh garlic, you can use a bit of wild garlic, garlic scapes or pickled garlic. I used our own homemade pickled garlic as we rarely have the fresh stuff at this time of year.
Walnuts make a good pairing with watercress. Something to do with their robust flavours I suspect. And as I’ve gone for English nuts and greens, I’ve also used cheddar as the cheese. Cheddar is also one of the cheapest hard cheeses and one of the tastes too. This is especially true if you use mature cheddar, which I’ve done.
But feel free to use whatever hard cheese or cheeses you have in the fridge and whatever nuts you have in the cupboard. After all, it’s not always easy to get just the right ingredients.
Food Processor or Blender?
If you have a blender or food processor, pesto is such an easy thing to make. And it’s oh so satisfying. I used my much loved Froothie Evolve* for this watercress pesto. Not only does it give a super smooth consistency, but the jug is made of glass. This makes it much easier to clean and there’s no danger of micro plastic bits being incorporated into the pesto. Do read my Froothie Evolve review for more information on this fabulous piece of equipment.
It does rather depend on how fine you like your pesto as to whether you use a blender or food processor. A power blender such as the Froothie Evolve will create a super fine sauce. For watercress pesto, this is exactly what you want. But for other pestos I usually use a food processor where I can get a more textured paste.
Although traditional pesto is often ground by hand in a pestle and mortar, I wouldn’t recommend it for this recipe. As it’s name suggests, watercress is quite watery which makes it unsuitable for this method of preparation.
Other Pesto Recipes You Might Like
- Basil, almond & cheddar pesto
- Carrot top pistou with lemon (vegan)
- Garden weed pesto
- Hedgerow pesto
- Parsley & almond pesto
- Wild garlic pesto – two ways
Keep in Touch
Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you make my recipe for watercress pesto, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.
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Watercress Pesto – The Recipe
- 150 g watercress
- 60 g walnuts
- 60 g cheddar cheese - grated
- 1 clove garlic
- pinch salt
- 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
- Place all of the ingredients, bar the olive oil into a blender or food processor. And blitz until everything is more or less blended.
- Add the olive oil and whizz again until you have a fine paste.
- Scoop into a sterilised jar and store in the fridge for up to three days.
I’m sharing this recipe for watercress pesto with The Peachicks Bakery for #CookBlogShare.
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