Award winning chef Steve James "My watercress recipes"
Dorset-born chef Steve James studied fine art before taking cookery classes at the Lesley Waters Cookery School at the age of 24. Steve's studies there led to him becoming involved in the school's cookery demonstrations and recipe development as well as assisting with teaching the classes themselves. Since this time Steve has launched his own personal chef company based in Somerset, catering for private events and all sorts of special occasions. With seasonal menus that change on a regular basis, Steve James Ltd has gone from strength to strength since opening for business in 2017 and has won a string of awards including The Luxury Travel Guide award for Best Dining Experience in Somerset 2017 and 2018 and the Chef of the Year Award 2018.
Steve particularly enjoys working with watercress thanks to its versatile nature and ability to complement a wide range of dishes. He has created a fantastic series of mouth-watering recipes which really demonstrate the superior flavour and many varied uses of this superb little leaf.
Green Goddess Soup
20th February 2019
Heat a saucepan over a medium heat and add the sliced onions along with a pinch of salt. Fry until softened and then add the garlic. Fry for a further 30 seconds and then add the grated courgette and continue to fry until everything is starting to soften.
Finely chop the parsley stalks and roughly chop the leaves. Add the watercress and parsley to the frying pan and cover with the stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 20 minutes.
Pour the soup into a blender and blitz until smooth. Once blended put the soup back in the saucepan, add the sour cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Stir over a low heat until the sour cream has melted into the soup (if looking for a richer soup you could add double cream instead). Pour into serving bowls and top with crumbled feta.
2 white onions, sliced
1 clove of garlic, crushed
3 medium courgettes, grated
30g watercress, roughly chopped (plus extra for serving)
15g parsley, leaves and stalks
1.5 litres vegetable stock
150g sour cream
Scallops with apple, radish, celeriac and watercress
23rd January 2019
1 Medium celeriac
75ml Double cream
250ml Chicken stock
100ml Rapeseed oil
75g Unsalted butter
A pinch of dulse or nori seaweed flakes
1 Braeburn apple
Fennel to garnish
Start by making a watercress oil. Add the rapeseed oil and 3/4 of the watercress to a food processor and blend on high speed until the rapeseed oil turns green. Leave to infuse for at least 30 minutes before straining through muslin or an unused J cloth.
Peel and roughly cube the celeriac, add to a saucepan and cover with the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until very soft.
While the celeriac is boiling, place a frying pan over a medium heat and dry fry the nigella seeds until they are fragrant. Remove from the frying pan and place to one side.
Finely slice the radishes into rounds, julienne the apple and toss in the juice of half a lemon to prevent oxidisation.
Once the celeriac is soft, strain it and let it sit until all the steam has evaporated. This removes any excess water. While the celeriac is still hot, heat the cream and 25g of the butter until just boiling. Add the cream mix and celeriac into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and season to taste. The puree can then be placed back into a saucepan to be kept warm until serving.
Place your frying pan back on the heat. Toss the scallops in rapeseed oil and season with pepper. You shouldn’t need to use any salt on the scallops as the seaweed will provide a salty flavour. Once the pan begins to haze, add in the scallops and cook for around one minute on one side, or until you see a nice caramelised colour. Turn the scallops over and colour the other side for roughly one more minute. The scallops should feel nice and springy but not too firm.
Finish your scallops by adding the seaweed and the rest of the butter to the pan. Toss to coat lightly.
To serve, place some celeriac puree on the plate, top with the scallops and dress with the radish, apple, nigella seeds and watercress. Drizzle with the watercress oil and finish the dish with sprigs of fennel.
Wild hot sauce
70g of Nasturtium leaves
1 large red chilli, seeds left in
2 cloves of garlic (can use wild garlic if in season)
2 tsp of salt
4 tbsp honey
200ml white wine vinegar
4 tbsp of linseeds
To begin, slice the red chilli and mince the garlic (if using wild garlic this can go in whole). Add all of the ingredients to a blender except from the linseeds. Pulse until it is all well combined, and a sauce consistency is achieved. You still want a slight texture from the leaves. Once blended stir through the linseeds and place into a jar.
Asian turkey mince with watercress and toasted cashews
2 banana shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
500g Turkey or chicken mince
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 Red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 lime, zested and juiced
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 tbsp of Soy sauce of Tamari
1tbsp fish sauce
15g coriander leaves
1 Red chilli, sliced
1 Spring onion, sliced
Handful of coriander leaves
1tsp soy sauce or tamari
1 tbsp sesame oil – or other neutral oil
1 lime cut into wedges
In a large frying pan toast the cashew nuts on a medium heat till golden. Once golden remove to a bowl and put to one side. Replace the pan on the heat and pour about 1tbsp of oil. Add the shallots and fry until softened and starting to caramelise. Once ready add the garlic and fry for another 30 seconds.
Quickly add the turkey or chicken mince and stir through the shallots and garlic to stop them from burning. Make sure all the mince is broken up and then leave it to caramelise to get a nice golden colour all over, stirring occasionally.
In a bowl mix together the lime zest and juice, chopped chilli, ginger, spring onion, soy sauce/tamari and fish sauce. When the mince is ready add the mixture to the pan and stir through, cook for a few minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir through the coriander leaves, put to one side and keep warm.
To serve: In a large bowl add the soy sauce/tamari and the sesame oil and mix well. Toss through the watercress and then divide between two plates. Top with the Asian mince and sprinkle with the toasted cashew nuts, sliced chilli, spring onion and the coriander leaves. Take to the table with some lime wedges to squeeze over.
Crispy skin salmon with watercress, poached egg and hollandaise
For the hollandaise:
3tbsp white wine vinegar
2 egg yolks
125g butter, cubed
For the salmon:
2x 130g salmon fillet
For the poached egg:
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1tbsp rapeseed oil
To start place the peppercorns and white wine vinegar for the hollandaise sauce into a small saucepan. Place on the hob on a high heat and reduce until approximately 1 tbsp of vinegar is left. Strain into a ramekin and leave to cool. In a large bowl add the 2 eggs yolks, a large pinch of salt and the cooled vinegar. Place above a pan of simmering water and whisk till it starts to lighten in colour. Start adding the butter one cube at a time, making sure each cube is fully incorporated before adding the next. When fully incorporated if it is too thick you can add a splash of water to loosen. Check the seasoning and add more salt, pepper or vinegar if needed. Place to one side in a warm place.
Boil the kettle. Place a frying pan and a shallow saucepan onto the hob on a high heat. In the shallow saucepan add boiling water, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar and a good pinch of salt, reduce so the water is just trembling. Rub the salmon with rapeseed oil and season well with salt and pepper. Place in the frying pan skin side down, as it cooks you will see the colour changing up the side of the fillet. Once the colour has changed halfway up the fillet remove the pan from the heat. Turn the fillet over and the residual heat from the pan will finish cooking the salmon through.
Crack the two eggs for poaching into individual ramekins or cups. Bring the ramekin close to the trembling water and quickly tip the egg into the water. Leave for three minutes.
Whilst the egg is cooking, in a bowl add the 1 tbsp rapeseed, salt, pepper and watercress and toss together. Finely chop a few chives. Place a good pile of watercress on to two plates. Once the three minutes is up remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon and onto some paper towel to drain. Place a salmon fillet onto the watercress and top with a poached egg. Spoon a good helping of the hollandaise sauce over top of the poached egg and sprinkle over the chives.
Chicken in a creamy mustard and watercress sauce
8 chicken drumsticks or thighs
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
Small knob of butter
2 cloves of garlic
Splash of whisky
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
250ml white wine
750ml chicken stock
50ml double cream
50g cream cheese
Preheat the oven to 180c. Heat a casserole dish on a high heat and add the rapeseed oil. Add the chicken and brown on all sides until golden. Remove the chicken to a plate. Lower the heat of the hob and add the butter to the pan, you may need to add a little more oil at this point to stop the butter from burning. Add the diced onion and cover with a lid and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, till soft and starting to turn golden.
Once the onion is cooked add the garlic and cook for thirty seconds. Pour in a good splash of whisky to de-glaze the pan. Add the Dijon mustard and stir through to combine then pour in the wine and chicken Stock. Place the chicken back in the dish. Bring to the boil and then place in the oven, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes. The chicken should be cooked through and so tender it could fall off the bone.
Remove from the oven and place on a medium heat on the hob. If there is a lot of liquid left leave for a few minutes to reduce. Turn the heat off and add the cream, cream cheese, watercress and season with salt and pepper, stir through. Serve with vegetables of your choice, I recommend squash gratin and extra watercress tossed in a little rapeseed oil.
Japanese seven spice dusk breast with watercress, radish and fennel
October 30th 2018
For the Japanese seven spice (alternatively can be shop bought):
1 tbsp dried orange peel
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp black sesame seeds
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp red pepper flakes
For the duck breast:
2 tbsp Japanese seven spice
For the salad dressing:
1 tbsp toasted black or white sesame seeds, plus extra for serving
2 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
3/4 tsp grated fresh ginger
Juice of 1 lime
1 small red chillli, finely chopped (or more if you like it hotter)
For the salad:
9 radishes, finely sliced
1 bulb fennel finely sliced
If making your own Japanese seven spice, combine all the ingredients together in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder and grind to a fine powder.
Pre-heat the oven to 190C. Score the duck breast lightly across the skin, this will help release and render the fat. Be careful not to cut through too far to the actual meat. Place the Japanese seven spice powder and a pinch of salt and pepper into a bowl. Add in the duck breasts and toss together until nicely coated.
Heat an ovenproof frying pan on the hob until hazing. Add the rapeseed oil and then place the duck in the pan, skin side down. Immediate lower the heat to a low-medium temperature then cook for five minutes. Turn the duck breast over then place the pan into the oven and cook for three minutes. Turn over again and return to the oven for a further three minutes. Take the pan from the oven, remove the duck breast and cover with foil before leaving to rest.
While the duck rests make your dressing by grinding the toasted sesame seeds until well crushed. Add the seeds to a bowl along with the rest of the dressing ingredients and mix until well combined. Taste the dressing to make sure it is well balanced, then add more soy sauce for saltiness, more lime juice for acidity, or more chilli and ginger for heat.
Start building your salad by first putting the dressing into the bottom of a big bowl. Finely slice the duck breast, then add this to the bowl with the radish and fennel. Finally, add the watercress and mix everything together until well coated with the dressing. Share between four plates, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and serve.
Salt and pepper pork belly, watercress, blue cheese and pickled onion
October 17th 2018
For the pork belly
500g pork belly, skin scored
1 tbsp black pepper, crushed
1 tbsp flaked sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
For the salad
Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Place the pork belly into a roasting tray, drizzle over the olive oil, and season well with salt and pepper. Rub the oil and seasoning into the pork belly and place into the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes reduce the oven temperature to 180C and roast for a further 40 minutes.
After 40 minutes remove the pork belly from the oven and leave to rest. While the meat rests pour the balsamic vinegar into a large bowl and add the sliced onions. Use your hands to scrunch the onions into the balsamic, helping the vinegar to soak in. Leave the onions soaking in the balsamic vinegar for five minutes so that they become lightly pickled.
Add the olive oil and seasoning to the onion and vinegar, being careful not to add too much salt and pepper as the blue cheese will be quite salty and the watercress will add a peppery flavour. Combine well using a whisk. Ad in the blue cheese and watercress and mix thoroughly.
To serve, share the salad between two plates. Dice the pork belly and use to top the salad.
Sicilian salmon with watercress, courgette and pea salad
October 10th 2018
For the salmon
2 salmon fillets, skinless and boneless
Zest of 1 lemon and juice of half
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp smoked paprika
For the salad dressing
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Juice of half a lemon (use leftover half from the salmon)
1/2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
For the salad
30g watercres plus a few extra leaves for serving
1 large courgette
Preheat the oven to 180C. In a large bowl, mix together all the salad dressing ingredients. Check the seasoning and adjust if needed, then set aside.
Boil the peas on the hob for five minutes then drain and place in cold water to refresh them. Use a vegetable peeler to peel long strips from the courgette, then use a griddle pan on a high heat to make char marks on either side of the courgette strips. You don’t need to add any oil when cooking. Leave to one side to cool.
Place the salmon on a baking tray. Sprinkle over the paprika, chilli flakes, lemon zest and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Then drizzle the salmon with a good amount of olive oil and the juice from the lemon. Roll the salmon around in the mixture to combine, ensuring it is well coated. Place in the preheated oven for 10 minutes to cook.
When the salmon is nearly ready mix the courgette, drained peas and watercress through the dressing and serve on plates. When the salmon is ready serve on top of the salad. Roll the few extra watercress leaves together, finely slice, then sprinkle over the salmon to finish.
Squashetti with watercress bacon and prawns
September 18th 2018
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1 butternut squash
1 tbsp butter
2 medium egg yolks
4 rasher smoky bacon, diced
1 litre fish/chicken/veg stock
250ml dry white wine
1 tsp chilli flakes
Zest and juice of one lemon
170g large king prawns (raw)
Salt and pepper
Firstly prepare your squash by peeling it and slicing in half lengthways. Remove the seeds from the middle with a spoon. If you have a spiraliser pass it through there to create spaghetti shaped squash noodles. If you do not own a spiraliser the best option is to pass it through a medium sized grater of a food processor.
Put your stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Once boiling turn down to a low heat. Add the egg yolk, parmesan, watercress, lemon zest and parsley to a food processer and blitz till all mixed together.
Place the onion with about a tablespoon of rapeseed oil and the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and cook until soft. Once your onion is soft then add the bacon to the pan and fry until nicely golden.
Add the garlic to the pan and cook for about thirty seconds. You don’t want to overcook the garlic or it will make your dish bitter. Once your garlic is ready put your squashetti in the pan and stir through the bacon, garlic and onions. To this add the white wine which will help to start cook the squash. Keep stirring the squash through the liquid.
Once all the wine has cooked down and the pan has just a small amount of liquid left in it start adding the stock a ladle at time, waiting each time until the pan has just a little liquid left in it. Make sure to leave one ladle full of stock for later.
To check the squash is cooked through (this usually takes around 8-10 minutes but differs depending on the heat of your hob, the squash and your pan) test it by trying a little, it should be soft but still with a little bite. Once it is cooked through remove the pan from the heat. Add a new frying pan to the hob and add a splash of rapeseed oil, you will need this in a minute for your prawns.
To the cooked squashetti a good squeeze of lemon juice, the chilli flakes, a good seasoning of salt of pepper and then add the egg yolk mixture with a splash of the left-over stock, make sure to do this off the heat otherwise you will end up with scrambled eggs. Stir this all through quickly and you will end up with a creamy sauce. Add a little more stock to loosen if needed. Check the seasoning and add more salt, pepper, lemon juice or chilli flakes if needed.
Put the squashetti to one side. In the new frying pan cook your prawns with a little salt and pepper, about 1-2 minutes on each side depending on the size of your prawns.
To serve, place a good amount of the squashetti into a pasta bowl or plate. Add the prawns to the top of this and garnish with some watercress sprigs.
Steve’s Watercress Mayonnaise
August 30th 2018
Steve developed this fantastic recipe for watercress mayonnaise which is perfect served inside a steak baguette, alongside fish or chicken goujons, or as an accompaniment to halloumi and roasted vegetables.
3 medium egg yolks
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp Dijon mustard
200ml rapeseed oil
100ml garlic rapeseed oil
In a food processor place the egg yolks, lemon and Dijon mustard. Start the processor and once these ingredients are mixed start by pouring in the garlic rapeseed oil, you need to do this very slowly so that the oil and egg yolk emulsify. The best way to do this is to pour the oil from the bottle if it has a small outlet a the top or pour it into a jug so it is easier to pour slowly into the mixer.
Add the watercress to the food processor, stalks and all. Blitz this all together until smooth with the flecks of the watercress leaves running through. Add salt and pepper to taste and more lemon juice if needed. If the mayonnaise is too thick you can add a tablespoon of water at a time to loosen to the required consistency.
For an extra kick in your mayonnaise why not add some dried chilli flakes, horseradish or wasabi. These would all work well with the peppery watercress.