Potato & Watercress Salad

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Lexie our dog is my constant companion in the garden – her nose is her greatest asset.  There is always a smell of the rabbit and little soil candies called grass grubs when I dig. Photo taken by my sister Kerry.

Lexie came with Fat Weka Farm and we just wouldn’t be without her.  We are not sure what breed her parents were but she has a superb nose and is a great garden companion.  She especially likes it when I work up the valley where we have planted an orchard and when I dig and uncover a grass grub…a Lexie lolly!  It’s not only Lexie who finds forgotten buried treasures up the valley.  When planting a black currant bush I discovered a nest of potatoes planted last summer.

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Gathered in my harvest bucket, freshly dug potatoes, watercress, mint and wild onion weed.

Labour weekend is traditionally the time to plant potatoes not to harvest.  They are starting to sprout but these are traditional Maori potatoes that do seem to like more time in the ground than the modern garden shop varieties.  These potatoes have been cultivated and treasured by Maori gardeners since European settlers first came to New Zealand.

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The top potatoes are often green because I hadn’t made sure I had kept adding enough soil or mulch over them to keep the sunlight out.

This old variety of potato may be knobbly and inconsistent sizes but the flavour is divine.  When cooked they are waxy just like new potatoes. They make a delicious warm potato salad when paired with watercress and egg.

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This is a view of our valley from the top of Fat Weka Farm.  The valley gathers quite a bit of water from the steep hills. We have created a long snaking raised bed to plant our trees so that they won’t have their feet in water especially over winter. This photo was taken in August 2016.  The village of Portobello and the Otago Harbour can be seen at the top of the picture.

First year at Fat Weka Farm there were patches of watercress in damp spots up the valley but now there are masses of it along the flanks of the raised beds.

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Gathering watercress is a job you have to do wearing gumboots.  It likes to have it’s feet well and truly wet.

After my potato discovery I picked a handful of watercress.  Potato also loves mint and we have that growing wild as well as a clump of onion weed – a perfect collection of plants for a delicious lunch. 20171023_140959

I add a sprig of mint to the salted cooking water of the scrubbed potatoes and cut the bigger potatoes to make them a regular size.  Then I put on a couple of eggs to hard boil.

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I wash a good handful of watercress and spin in the salad maker and set aside.

Next, the mustard dressing…

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Crush a small clove of garlic in salt then add 3 tablespoons of a good vegetable oil (my favourite oil at the moment is a cold pressed rape seed oil from Canterbury – Zeaola Oil).  Add a teaspoon of mustard and juice of half a lemon (or to taste).  Mix together to make a thick dressing that sinks into the potatoes when hot.

Once the potatoes are tender drain off the water but leave them in the pot to keep warm.  Add the dressing and keep the lid on the pot.  Just before serving toss through the watercress and pile into a warm plate.  Finely chop a sprig of mint and sprinkle over the top with the hard boiled eggs that have been removed from their shells and quartered.  The final touch is some chopped wild garlic/onion stalks and a sprinkling of the flowers.

This potato salad is best served warm but can also be served cold.  If serving cold don’t wilt the watercress but lay out the rinsed leaves in the serving plate. Still add the dressing to the potatoes while hot but allow to cool before arranging on top of the watercress with egg and onion weed topping.

This salad is ideal for new potatoes. I wonder if I’ll find some grass grubs for Lexie when I plant my potatoes soon for harvest in 2018.

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