Emma Daisley is the latest recruit to our Watercress Ambassador programme. She is 42 and lives with her husband and young son in Oxfordshire. She became interested in cooking in her 20s, since then has developed a love of it, keen to try new techniques and taking inspiration from the cuisine of many of the countries she has visited. Her culinary expertise was visible to all when she took party in TV show, Come Dine With Me.
With a family budget to balance Emma’s very conscious about food waste and value for money choosing to experiment with fresh, local, seasonal food growing as much of her own as possible in her allotment. One thing she can’t grow is watercress as it requires flowing spring water to cultivate nevertheless, watercress ticks all the boxes for her with its versatility and proven health benefits. There’s also the added bonus that leafy greens are one of the only vegetables that her son will eat without suspicion!
Emma works in a Secondary School where they have been developing a community garden and are busy planning for their first crops. She also runs a breakfast-club there and often manages food based events as fundraisers within the school.
Emma is keen to introduce the kids and staff to a variety of watercress based treats and here she explains how things have been going…….
Week 1, Day 1
I’ve always been fond of watercress. The peppery fresh leaves cut through the sharp cheese and unctuous flavours of a home-cooked lasagne or moussaka, making it a wonderfully balanced garnish, even when simply dressed with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
But watercress is worthy of so much more respect than being relegated to a garnish. It deserves to be embraced and celebrated, and take centre stage with its own stand alone dishes.
There are so many reasons that I wanted to increase the amount of watercress and leafy greens I eat, not least because I’ve had a very indulgent Christmas and New Year, and I know I will feel better if I increase my superfood intake. I’m also a keen runner, but I’ve had 2 periods away from running in the past year, due to a pesky ankle injury. I’m hurtling towards my mid- 40’s, and it’s definitely taking longer for injuries to heal. If it can increase antioxidants and prevent injury, then it’s got to be worth eating more of it.
And it’s a huge vitamin C boost, too. It just gets better and better for the often-overlooked watercress.
Salmon & Watercress Filo Parcels
As it’s January, everyone seems to be on a diet, having consumed too much over Christmas and New Year. So tonight I cooked salmon and watercress filo parcels. Much less pastry than a pie, and the flavours of the sweet salmon and the sharpness of the watercress complement each other perfectly.
You will need:
50g pine nuts, lightly toasted in a dry pan
100g watercress, including the stalks, washed
70g grated pecorino cheese, or Parmesan if preferred
7 tbsp olive oil
Zest and juice of half a lemon
Handful of fresh basil
Filo pastry sheets
Tub of ricotta cheese
For the sauce:
Handful of watercress
150ml single cream
A few tbsps milk to loosen sauce
Blend together the lemon zest and juice, pine bits, watercress, pecorino, salt, pepper, olive oil and basil until smooth. This is a basic pesto and you can use it to top crostini or add to pasta. This recipe only needs a good tablespoon per person, so you will have some left. The excess pesto can be stored in the fridge for about 3 days. I’ll be using mine up tomorrow when I make ravioli.
Cut the bottom 1/3rd from the bottom of a filo pastry sheet, and place it in the centre of the remaining sheet. Top this with a generous spoon of the pesto and a salmon fillet.
Top this with a dollop of ricotta, wrap up, and bake for around about 20 minutes on 220 Fahrenheit.
I served my filo parcels with potato purée, and a creamy watercress sauce, made by blitzing the cream, milk and watercress with a hand blender. I then checked the seasoning and heated through before serving.
I made these about 5 hours in advance, and kept them in the fridge, so they would definitely work for an easy dinner party.
It’s also great for a quick midweek supper. Clean plates all round, even my veg hating 10 year old enjoyed it.
For an alternative recipe featuring filo pastry but which is as tasty and healthy, try this recipe for feta parcels with a delicious couscous and watercress salad from Keri Astil-Frew, development chef for The Watercress Company.