The classic soup is given a mustardy kick with the addition of some tangy green leaves
Rocket. What a wonderful name for a leaf. Wild rocket is even better, suggesting an untamed missile of heat and flavour. It was a bit disappointing, then, to find out the name has nothing to do with space travel or fireworks, but comes from the French roquette, diminutive of the Latin eruca, which – according to my dictionary – was originally an early variety of cabbage. Like cabbage (and broccoli, sprouts, kale, radish, turnips, mizuna, horseradish and watercress), rocket is part of the brassica, crucifer or mustards family, all with their different degrees of heat and pepperiness. Rocket is the higher end of the scale, the rascal of the salad bowl.
I found my first leaf of rocket in a salad in Pizza Express on Coptic Street in central London when I was about 13. As if the place, with its white tiles, tiered topping station, Italian waiters and dough balls wasn’t exciting enough, there were hot leaves under the special house dressing. A few years later, when Pizza Express expanded to the home counties like middle-age spread, my brother would work there and we’d learn the secret of the house dressing, which I am sure had changed by then, so it was doubly disappointing. Back to the leaf at 13, though, which wasn’t disappointing. It was saw-edged, peppery and as Italian as the waiter.