Sunday, April 24, 2011

Sorrel savours

Sorrel or oseille in French is one of the few things that we can always rely on in the early spring, that otherwise thin time of the year for garden produce, and it keeps growing all year round--even now in autumn it's still going strong. It grows very easily and persistently(too much so sometimes!) And with its lemony taste, soft texture and bright green colour, it's a lovely and versatile vegetable which can be used in lots of ways. It's very popular in France where it's mostly used for soups and delicious sauces for fish, but it's also popular in many other countries including Russia, where we were last year in spring and noticed quite a lot growing in people's gardens. (It is one of the very first vegies to pop up after their long winters.) There it's also often made into salads to serve with smoked fish or cooked with spinach too but it's loved so much it's also salted and preserved for the winter! In Australia, though, sorrel isn't so well-known--but is beginning to be found in the better greengrocers.

Here are some of our favourite ways of using sorrel:

*use some chopped small young sorrel leaves mixed into a bigger green salad.

*make a sorrel salad to have with smoked salmon, pickled herrings or other preserved fish, simply by chopping up fresh young leaves and making a dressing of a bit of olive oil, a touch of white balsamic vinegar, half teaspoon Dijon mustard, a teaspoon of sour cream and some dill.

*'chiffonade' sauce for fish: Sorrel shrinks alarmingly when cooked, much much more than spinach and a huge bunch will reduce to a spoonful of weird bronze-coloured cream very quickly indeed. That doesn't matter--its distinctive taste is what you're after. You need a good handful of sorrel leaves--both the small and bigger ones are fine for this. Wash, chop, then put in a saucepan with some butter. When sorrel has reduced take off stove and add a smidgeon of white wine, some salt and pepper and a touch of sour cream to give it a nice smooth texture. Serve as a dollop on fish fillets. It's great with most fish, and made in seconds.

*simple sorrel soup: ingredients for 2 people. One potato, one onion, handful sorrel leaves, stock(chicken or similar is best), a splash white wine, butter. Melt some butter in a pan, put in chopped onion and diced potato, cook until getting a bit softer. Add chopped sorrel, splash wine white, then pour in stock.Let cook till potato is tender, then process the soup or mash it up and sieve till smooth. Season to taste. You can add a little cream at the end too. Bon appetit!

(Note: Sorrel does contain oxalic acid so you don't want to overdo it--but you'd have to be eating handfuls of sorrel every day for ages for it to be a problem. )

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