Potato and Watercress Salad

a plate of potato and watercress salad with red peppers and pink pickled onions

If I ask you to imagine a potato salad, like many people, you’d probably immediately think of potatoes swimming in mayonnaise. It’s time to meet an alternative version you wish you’d always known. Unlike the familiar (often bland, boring and frankly two-dimensional) barbecue side dish, this potato and watercress salad is full of layers of flavour. It’s as delicious as it is colourful.

a white platter of purple potatoes, watercress, red peppers and pink pickled onion with a drizzle of olive oil

The firm smooth texture of the urenika potato, sometimes called a Māori potato in New Zealand, is the perfect salad potato. To retain the beautiful purple potato colour, steam the potatoes then peel. Roasted red peppers are sweet, watercress for peppery bite and quick pickled red onions for acidity. A light seasoning, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil is all this salad needs. If you really need that mayonnaise hit, an aquafaba mayonnaise or an avocado whip are both ideal.

While you can buy watercress, it is also easy to forage. Found along river edges and waterways through many countries around the world. If foraging it is advisable to consider the landscape the water came from. Pollution from houses, wildlife or livestock can contaminate the water. The parasites that live in animals such as liver fluke can inhabit watercress too, so take care to only harvest from a clean water source. As with all foraging an advisable rule is ‘if in doubt, don’t’.

As we live in a farming region I prefer to grow my own in plant pots for a year round supply. Watercress is very easy to grow from foraged seeds or purchase some from a reliable source.

Potato and Watercress Salad

Serves 4-6 people as a side or light lunch


  • 8-10 urenika/purple potato or favourite salad potato
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 1/2 quick pickled red onion
  • 1-2 cups watercress
  • Juice half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or dressing of choice – optional
  • sea salt


Quick Pickled red onions

Quick pickled red onions need a few hours to develop the colour and flavour to develop, for a stronger colour prepare the day before. A jar or container will keep in the fridge for up to 5 days, quickl pickled red onions are a great addition to salads, sandwiches or wraps.

RoasteD Red Peppers

If you choose to roast a red pepper, follow this method . Otherwise keep a jar in the fridge, or portion a can into containers for freezing. I use canned red peppers in Red Pepper Soup and tomato and red pepper sauce.


Wash the watercress well, trimming discoloured leaves and thick or woody stems, thinner stems are edible. If not using immediately store in a container in the fridge or, if roots are attached, sit in a jar of water.


To retain the beautiful purple colour, you’ll need a steamer basket. Pour water into a pot large enough to fit the steamer basket. The water level should be at least 2-3 cm deep but there needs to be a gap between the water and the steamer. Place washed potatoes into the steamer basket and cover with a lid. If the potatoes they are not the same size, half or quarter the larger ones to ensure even cooking.

Bring to the boil then lower the heat to gently boil for 15-25 minutes, the cooking time will depend on the size of the potatoes. To check if they are cooked, pierce one with a thin skewer or tip of a sharp knife. If cooked, the centre should not be hard and when ready the potato should slide off the skewer or knife. It is easiest to peel the potatoes with the tip of sharp knife while warm.

If you have chosen a new or baby white potato you can leave the skin on.

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