Last week, there was a lovely big bag of sorrel in my farmbox, which is an ingredient I haven’t seen in ages. It is almost never in the shops here. When it is, it falls into the herb category though my bundle of large leaves was nothing like a bunch of herbs.
Sorrel is something I associate with salmon, from my French days; saumon à l’oseille being a very traditional café menu item. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the taste is sharp, almost lemony, which is why sorrel goes well with salmon. Since it is acidic, it needs cream to tone it down and I cannot think of a sorrel recipe without cream. I read that it used to be consumed by sailors to help combat scurvy, as it is high in vitamin C. It also contains oxalic acid, which is a poison, so perhaps not a good idea to consume in large quantities, although the sourness acts as a deterrent anyway. Do not be put off, lots of things have oxalates (rhubarb, chives, even parsley) and sorrel is perfectly fine for normal consumption.
As it has become unseasonably cold here, thoughts of soup have been frequent, so the sorrel found its way into the big pot with some lentils and potatoes.
My recipe is based on one found in Deborah Madison’s The Savory Way book. Her inspiration came from Elizabeth David (so many recipe roads lead to ED) who documented a traditional French recipe for a simple soup of boiled lentils with cream and sorrel. Shock horror: there is no stock, simply water, and the onions are not even browned. It’s that basic.
Combining sorrel with lentils was a new one on me and it worked well. Like DM, I could not resist doing a bit more so this version has carrots, for colour essentially, since sorrel goes a bit dull and khaki when cooked. Running around in heavy jumpers in late April is bad enough without eating dreary brown soup as well, so it got brightened up. The resulting soup was almost tonic, a cinch to prepare and very tasty too. As the box contained the most tender, delicate spring onions (scallions, for Americans), I thinly sliced one and sprinkled on top before serving, to keep things fresh, green and cheery.
Sorrel-Lentil Soup with Potato
100g Le Puy lentils, rinsed
1 small onion or 1 shallot, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1.5 l vegetable stock (Marigold bouillon, for example) or water
1 large potato, peeled or not, finely cubed
50 g sorrel
2-3 tbsp double cream or crème fraîche
Fine salt and fresh ground black pepper
In a large pot, combine the lentils, onion, carrot, bay, stock and potatoes.
Bring to the boil, then lower the heat, cover partially and simmer gently until the lentils and potato are cooked, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Meanwhile, prepare the sorrel. If the stems are large, strip or cut them out. Coarsely chop the leaves.
When the lentils are cooked, remove half of the soup to a bowl and use an immersion mixer to blend the soup left in the pot (alternatively, purée half in a food processor or blender). If you want a completely puréed soup, then do the whole thing. Stir in the sorrel and simmer for 10 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir in the cream just before serving. This is best on the day it is made.
Cream of Sorrel Soup
250 g fresh sorrel, washed
500 g potatoes, peeled and cubed
150 ml crème fraiche
1-2 tsp vegetable bouillon powder, such as Marigold
If the sorrel is large, slice out the thick central stem. Set aside.
Combine the potatoes and 1.5 litres water in a large pot. Season with salt and bring to the boil. Simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, 10-15 minutes. Purée if desired.
Tear or coarsely chop the sorrel and add to the potatoes. Stir in the bouillon powder. Simmer gently until the potatoes are cooked through, about 10 minutes more. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Remove from the heat, stir in the cream and serve immediately.