Sorrel soup

When my precious took the first slurp of my sorrel soup, I thought a horse must have tip-toed into the room and left a message on the easy chair at my back. Her eyes widened and took on a slightly acidic sheen, her nose shot up, and her lips curled the curl of utter contempt.

I knew exactly what had happened. Her lip is like a canary in a coal-mine. If it drops, something’s up.

‘Too much sorrel in the soup?’ I ventured in my best mannered voice.

‘Cor,’ she shrieked, ‘didn’t ya taste it?’

‘Well, as a matter of fact, I quite liked it,’ I lied, and took to it with a gusto, just to, as they say at the footy, stick it up ‘er.

She was right, of course. It was too tart, by half. I had forgotten to taste the main event. No matter how familiar you think you are with a flavour, taste it again. Do it with quinces, with cumquats, and especially with sorrel.

They are all extremely tart, with a surprising undertaste, but you’ve got to taste a little first, before committing the bunch to the pot — or risk the curled lip.

Sorrel is a marvellous weed which seems to take a while to consolidate, then keeps multiplying like mosquitos in spring. It is extremely tart, certainly the tartest leaf in the garden, and unlike rhubarb, it is served at that part of the menu which doesn’t appreciate sugar assists.

There are dozens of recipes for sorrel soup in French recipe books.

Sorrell is also greatly recommended with omelettes. The Troisgros brothers have a signature recipe at their famous restaurant at Roanne, not far from Lyon: escalopes of salmon with a sorrel cream sauce. It is not much more than a heavily reduced fish stock, a little cream and a quick warm through of some torn sorrel. Why not try your own version?


You can avoid this part of the recipe if you wish, but it is at your peril

Those who will are those who enjoy raw lemons. The best stock is one heavily flavoured with lamb bones; a close second, that from a ham hock; third, a strong vegetable stock. Whichever you make, ensure there are a couple of parsnips, a couple of carrots, some celery, a few chopped onions, some fennel, garlic and a little ginger.

1 teaspoon curry powder, preferably your own

handful of sorrel — Tear off the thick stems and taste a little of a leaf. Tart, hey?


black pepper

a little cream or butter (optional)


Make the stock, ensuring there is plenty of liquid. Strain, and remove the vegetables. Pour the liquid into a whizzer along with the cooked onions, fennel, garlic and a little of the carrot and parsnip. You don’t want much of the root vegetables. The soup should not be thick. Add the curry powder and whizz quickly.


Return to the heat, bring to the boil, and throw in the sorrel for about 30 seconds. Check the seasoning. It could need a deal of salt

That afterwards effect has not changed, but now, thanks to the and black pepper. Separately (in a microwave) re-heat the parsnip and carrot you set aside.


Whizz briefly the stock and sorrel mixture. Toss back in the rest of the slow-cooked carrots and parsnips for some chunkiness, and serve with some crusty bread. You can enrich the soup with some cream, or butter, or even an egg, if you wish.

WINE: I was once at a luncheon with an august group of wine people who were saying nice things about a ‘masked’ sherry. When unmasked, it turned out to be one I had blended. I was feeling rather chuffed, but soon horrified when, to a man, they popped the sherry into the soup and were racing. When in Rome… I tried it — it worked and I’ve done it ever since.