Let the great British Watercress Cook Off commence

Calling all watercress connoisseurs and enthusiasts – British watercress farmers are launching a national competition to search for the nation’s greatest watercress dish.

Think you make a mean watercress and pork sausage, a tantalising watercress and orange scone or perhaps even watercress infused pasta? Whether it’s a starter, main, snack or even a dessert, it’s time for the UK to see what they can whip up with this peppery little leaf for a chance to win £2,000.

Judges will be putting three finalists through their paces, searching for not only a fantastic, original watercress recipe, but also a spark of showmanship to keep an audience on the edge of their seats.

The overall winner will be given the chance to cook their recipe live at the national Watercress Festival on Sunday, May 19, an event which normally attracts crowds of over 10,000.

All three finalists will enjoy an expenses paid weekend in what’s known as the ‘Capital of Watercress’ in Alresford, Hampshire with one being crowned the Watercress Cook Off Champion 2013.

Charles Barter, of the Watercress Alliance, said: “The Great British Watercress Cook Off is a great opportunity for any budding chefs to show us what they can do to further enhance the great, peppery flavour of watercress. Whether it’s classic, simple or fine dining inspired we know that there are some great dishes out there and I for one cannot wait to taste them!”

If you fancy yourself as the first ever Watercress Cook Off Champion but need a little inspiration why not visit www.watercress.co.uk where there are a host of delectable dishes and recipe ideas. Once you’ve come up with your recipe simply upload it to www.watercress.co.uk/the-recipe-club/recipe-club-competition/ to enter and you could be whisked away to Hampshire for the live final this Spring. Alternatively, send your recipe to info@watercress.co.uk or post to: Jessica Archard, Mustard Communications, 6th Floor, Regal House, 70 London Road, Twickenham, TW1 3QS.

It won’t just be the amateurs that get to show off their watercress produce – festival stall holders and local shop and café owners can enter the Watercress Food Awards to put their offerings to the test and new for 2013 is an award for the UK’s Best Watercress Retail Product.

Other events at the 9th annual Watercress Festival include the ever popular World Watercress Eating Championships in which competitors try to eat two bags of watercress in the quickest possible time and beat the Guinness World Record of just 46.69 seconds – hilarious and strangely compelling to watch.

A traditional cavalcade marks the start of the Festival in which the first of the new season British watercress is showered down on spectators by the newly crowned Watercress King and Queen, as they process up the length of Broad Street.

The Festival is great day out for all the family with cookery demonstrations, food stalls run by local producers showing their wares, musical entertainment and the chance to tour a real watercress farm and see how this amazing crop has been farmed for centuries. There is plenty to keep the kids amused too, including a petting zoo, a climbing wall run by the local Scout group and street entertainers. Children will also be able to learn about eco-farming on the Watercress Alliance stand on Broad Street and book to go on a farm tour.

The Watercress Festival marks the start of National Watercress Week which runs from 19 May – 26 May 2013 and celebrates all things great about the little leaf with a peppery bite.

Packed full of more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals, watercress is grown in pure spring water and contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach. Scientific research has classified watercress as a significant player in cancer prevention and a new study has also shown it can help to improve wrinkles.