Watercress Soup

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There is nothing like a bowl of warm clear soup on a cold Autumn day like today amidst grey skies and the typical Oregon rain.

Watercress soup is one of my favorite clear soups growing up. I always cook a big batch in my 10 quart crock pot as there is no such thing as too much soup in our household.

If you are talking about the Ying and Yang properties of food: Ying meaning cooling and Yang meaning heaty as in lowering or raising body temperatures; watercress is definitely a Ying/ cooling food. That is why when Chinese cook watercress soup, we often add red dates and gezi (also known as wolf berries) that has Yang/ heating properties to balance out the Ying and Yang properties of this soup.

I am so into soup lately that I cooked two different soups including the watercress soup – an Asian soup and a Western soup that is TBA.

This no fuss soup is really simple, here are the steps and ingredients:

First, give 4 half chicken breasts a quick rinse under cold tap water and pat dry with paper towels.

Place the chicken breasts on the bottom of a 10 quart crock pot.

Next, cut off and discard the roots and the soil attached to 4 bunches of watercress.

The most tedious part which is worth the while is to wash, rinse and repeat each bunch of watercress separately after dividing and cutting them into three equal lengths.

My mom and grandma used to painstakingly pluck the leaves off the stem. They would cook the stems as a bunch with the leaves floating on top of the soup. We were spoiled as we would only eat the leaves which are the most tender parts when drinking the soup and the stems were discarded. But these days, I include the stems as they are a good source of fiber.

I do not like to add salt to my clear soup if I don’t have to, instead I like to be able to taste the flavor of the meat that has been slow cooked in it.

I seasoned the soup with 3-4 small pieces of dried octopus (a dried delicacy that is impossible to find online, so dried cuttlefish can be used instead. I also added 2 dried scallops (they are also known as conpoy), 8-9 dried red dates and 2 tablespoons of gezi (also known as wolf berries). I also used 5-6 dried shitake mushrooms after giving them a quick rinse under cold tap water for flavoring the soup.

This is a tonic soup as the watercress is chalked full of vitamins particularly calcium, iodine, folic acid, vitamin A and potassium. Red dates are known to benefit the heart and gezi/ wolf berries are known to be good for the eyes. Shitake mushrooms also has plenty of antioxidants.

The important thing is to add 14 cups of boiling water to the ingredients before cooking everything on low for 17 hours.

It is essential to cook watercress with boiling water which will make the broth clear. The use of boiling water and cooking the soup overnight would help kill a parasite that sometimes thrives in watercress. The parasite can cause liver fluke so do not test the taste of the soup until it is done cooking.

You can read more about watercress on Wikipedia on this link.

Never mind the parasite scare. Just be sure to cook the soup as detailed above and you can sit by the fireplace and slurp up this yummy and nourishing soup.

Copyright 2013 From the Kitchen of Eloise

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