Making watercress soup on Christmas day

Travelling Companion is a terrific cook. Son buys the best cheese. If I am going to contribute to Christmas lunch it is only going to be a gesture. I make soup.

The past few years I’ve made pea soup on Christmas day. Yuk, said Son, when I mentioned that possibility. So I looked up the recipe in Sarah Brown and went back to what I’ve made on Christmas day in the past, watercress soup.  I bought watercress yesterday in Carrefour, just before it closed; and lemons; and yoghurt.

It was only when I opened the cookbook this morning that I realised these are the ingredients for a cold soup. In our household among the younger generation there is no understanding of cold soup. Yuk, said Son, Daughter, and Son-in-Law. (Retrospectively).

That wasn’t the recipe I used to use: so what was it? I found one in Julia Child that looked vaguely familiar – taking some pleasure in the light of yesterday’s blog about Julie and Julia.

I believe that reading ahead is to be discouraged, in novels and in recipes.

Half-way down Julia Child’s recipe for salade niçoise, however and for example, we find Arrange the potatoes in the bottom of the bowl. Looking up the list of ingredients we find ¾ lb cold French potato salad (preceding recipe). Time needed for that preceding recipe: quite a bit (at least long enough to boil the potatoes and let them cool). This time it wasn’t like that. But I found it hard to believe the final instructions:  1) mix egg yolks and cream; 2) beat the soup into this mixture, first drop by drop and then in a thin stream (we’re talking a bucket of soup); 3) stir in some softened butter, again a little at a time. I obeyed the butter, skipped the cream and poached the egg yolks directly in the soup. Which made it a bit odd.


The people ate it, even so. Subsequent courses: the salmon en croûte was divine. Son has gone off Herve, which is the perfect Christmas cheese, but I had some in reserve. Grandson, who slept through most of this, dined on chicken.

The picture shows a station on the Watercress line, a heritage railway line in Hampshire, England. We had a trip on it in spring 2014.

public bird Ropley Watercress Line 314.JPG


Published by

Paul Hodson

Head of Unit "EnergyEfficiency" at European Commission, Directorate-General for Energy

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