Packing heat - watercress

watercress hero
There are some foods that it's impossible to define as anything other than ‘man' food. The kind of thing that, after eating, makes you feel (whether you're a man or not) that you can pull a heavy goods vehicle with your teeth, throw shipping containers as if they were dice, or at least casually chop a plank of wood in half with a bare hand, Bruce Lee style. I'm thinking offal, spare ribs, fat chicken thighs gnawed off the bone then tossed, Henry VIII-style, over the shoulder, the Great British fry up, blisteringly hot curries, ham hock, stuffed-crust deep-pan pizzas, doorstep sarnies, jam roly-poly, anything deep-fried, grill-scorched or hickory-smoked, and, as an honorary contender, the all-you-can-eat-buffet when treated as an endurance test.

You'll note that the vast majority of this testosterone-heavy man-fodder is meat or industrial-strength carbs. OK, so there's a token pudding. But certainly no salad leaves. No way, dude - green stuff is for girls!

Not so fast. For all those who boycott the salad section of the fresh produce aisle on the basis that its contents just aren't butch enough, I have one word: watercress.

Deep green, with a hot, peppery kick, this a salad leaf for grown-ups - for people who like their curries to carry a ‘highly flammable' warning, and their steak so rare it's practically blue. Some people like to limit it to just a garnish, and there's nothing wrong with that - it's a perfect match for game and roast meats, or for adding a deliciously mustardy sting to a tuna burger.

But if you're feeling watercress-curious, now is the moment to run with that curiosity as the six-month watercress season is just about to kick off. The key is to play off its addictively fiery nature against milder ingredients: use it to give spring salads a little heat, blitz in a blender with potatoes and onion for a classic soup, or treat it like the classy ingredient it is and take on this salmon and watercress soufflé - the short-cut to dinner party kudos.

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