(Spring in a bowl)
Visit Raymond’s website for this and other great recipes.
Maman Blanc never used stock for soups. She believed that, if the main ingredients are fresh enough, they should provide all the flavour you need. This recipe proves her point. The peppery watercress taste is the star of this soup, and its vivid bright green colour is like spring in a bowl.
20 g unsalted butter
¼ onion, peeled and diced
2 large bunches of watercress (200 g each), stalks removed (this is about 3-4 supermarket bags)
50g spinach, stalks removed, washed
375 ml boiling water
4 pinches sea salt
1 pinch freshly ground black pepper
375 g ice
To serve (optional)
Melt the butter in a large saucepan over a low heat.
Add the onion and sweat gently for 3–5 minutes until softened and translucent.
The sweating process will convert the natural starches present in the onion into sugars, enhancing the flavour of the soup.
Turn up the heat, add the watercress and spinach and wilt for 2 minutes.
Watercress varies in its intensity of flavour. If your watercress is very peppery, cut off the entire
stalk, but if it is mild, retain some of the stalk. (supermarkets bags are fine to use the whole sprig)
Add the boiling water, season with the salt and pepper, and boil for 2 minutes only. Adding boiling water speeds up the cooking of the watercress and spinach, retaining the colour, flavour and vitamins.
Season early on to allow the salt to permeate the ingredients, but do so sparingly and allow for the pepperiness of the watercress. You can always add more later.
Remove from the heat and immediately add the ice to stop the cooking process. This helps to retain the vivid colour of the watercress, as well as its texture, taste and nutrients.
Purée the soup in a blender until very smooth. You may need to do this in a few batches.
Re-heat at the last moment, then taste and correct the seasoning.
Serve immediately, in a warmed tureen or individual bowls topped with a spoonful of crème fraîche or Greek yogurt.
"Add a crushed clove of garlic to the soup base. A squeeze of lemon juice would heighten the flavour, but this will need to be added at the last minute or it will discolour the watercress."
"This soup can be prepared well in advance and re-heated to serve."
You can also see Raymond in action when he visited ours farms:
12 facts about how Raymond Blanc got started
Raymond Blanc was born in 1949 in Eastern France to working class parents and was one of five children
Money was tight and Raymond worked five days a week in the garden with his father growing vegetables or cutting down wood from the nearby forests to bring home to his mother
Raymond’s mother ‘Maman Blanc’ was a great cook who made delicious use of the seasonal produce her husband toiled over in his vegetable garden when he wasn’t working as a watchmaker
When Raymond was 10 his father gave him a map. It showed young Raymond where to find the best places to forage, fish and hunt for seasonal produce. It led to not only some fantastic adventures but a genuine love and knowledge of what nature provides in the four seasons
Like most teenagers, Raymond didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life. He tried his hand as a draughtsman but hated drawing straight lines; he started to train as a nurse but this only taught him that he liked to make people feel good
It was while walking past Le Palais de la Biere restaurant and he witnessed a waiter flambeeing a dish for a customer that he knew what he wanted to do - he wanted to bring that drama and creativity into people’s lives - he wanted to be a chef
Initially the manager would only employ him as a cleaner but his excellent work ethic (drilled into him by his father), impressed the manager so much that he worked his way up to dish washer before being promoted to waiter
In this role he could finally get closer to the kitchen and observe the chef and his techniques. However, the Head Chef became irritated by Raymond’s ‘helpful’ suggestions and hit him with a frying pan breaking his jaw
On leaving hospital Raymond was exiled to Great Britain where he became a waiter at a restaurant pub in Oxfordshire, called the Rose Revived
Here, he finally got the chance to cook when the pub’s Head Chef was off sick and Raymond stepped into the breach. He demonstrated his self-taught culinary prowess, which the locals loved and he ‘got the job’. This was also where he met his wife, Jenny who was the publican’s daughter
A few years later the couple left for Oxford and on the site of a former Greek taverna – a humble building sandwiched between the Oxfam shop and a store selling women’s woollen lingerie, they set up what became Les Quat’Saisons, named after Raymond’s education in the four seasons as a boy
It quickly became known as the best place to eat in Oxford and, in 1979, it won its first of two coveted Michelin stars and the Egon Ronay Guide award for Best Restaurant in England.
To continue reading the Raymond Blanc story click here
Raymond’s passion for growing and nurturing vegetables has never left him and he loves to encourage others to discover the pleasures of growing your own veg, so much so, he runs gardening courses at his world renowned Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons.
If you just want to brush up on your culinary skills why not visit The Raymond Blanc Cookery School for a few tips!
If Oxfordshire is too far to go to sample Raymond’s culinary expertise, take a trip to one of the 20 Brasserie Blanc restaurants around the country instead. These are a collection of beautiful brasseries that are affordable for families and professionals to enjoy local, sustainable and seasonal French food, plus a few dishes inspired by Raymond’s travels abroad.
Try these delicious recipes served at Brasserie Blanc for yourself: