10 March 2013

Saturday Spotlight - Sorrel

Even though it's Sunday, I'm linking in with Liz at Suburban Tomato this week for her Saturday Spotlight where she highlights a particular vegetable that is doing well in her garden.

Today I thought I'd write about a vegetable in the Country Garden that has quietly been doing its thing for many months now, but being a leafy vegetable, hasn't had the spotlight that many of the other more flamboyant vegies in the garden get at this time of the year - Sorrel.

I had never tried Sorrel until I was taken out to one of the best restaurants in Melbourne for my birthday this year, and one of the dishes had one young, solitary baby sorrel leaf featured as part of the  dish.  It was delicious and I decided then and there to find some to grow in the garden. 

I bought a large punnet of seedlings back in early Spring I think and have just treated them like spinach or silverbeet - same spacings and regular watering over summer.  They have just kept growing and growing.  A couple started to seed but I cut off the shooting section and they've gone back to production.  I have a vague memory that someone told me they grow like weeks in Europe, so perhaps not surprising that they are easy to grow, but I think it is surprising how well they are standing up to the hot weather given how lush the leaves are.

Sorrel starts out tasting a bit like spinach, but then as you are chewing the leaf a bitter lemon flavour suddenly bursts from it.  I find its bitterness a bit overwhelming if eaten in large quantities but it's fabulous as part of a leafy salad to give it a lift and zing.  I haven't tried cooking it but expect that would work well, perhaps with a bit of lemon juice over the top at the end to really enhance the flavour.

This morning I decided to make Sorrel Pesto, using the same recipe I use for Basil Pesto.  It came out reasonably bitter (probably all the oils in the leaves being pummelled out in the blender) but I think it would be great in a dish combined with other ingredients, perhaps including something sweet to counteract the bitterness - maybe a pizza with feta and figs.  You could also use it like Salsa Verde in a fish dish.

The pesto recipe I use is based on Maggie Beer's in Maggie's Harvest, except I use cashew nuts instead of pine nuts because as far as I can tell no-one is growing pine nuts in Australia for commercial sales, and my pine nut tree won't be producing for probably the next 20 years!  I also make half her recipe, which is the perfect amount for two people.  Here's the abridged version, she writes it much more eloquently!

Sorrel Pesto
1 cup tightly packed sorrel leaves, roughly chopped (or basil, as per Maggie's recipe)
50g lightly toasted raw unsalted cashew nuts
50g grated parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
S+P to taste

Put all ingredients into blender with 1/8 cup olive oil and blend until leaves are all chopped up
Add 1/4 cup extra olive oil and blend up to wet and smoothish paste
Store in the fridge covered in a layer of olive oil for a week or so.

(I'm also experimenting with freezing some pesto at the moment - not sure it will work with so much oil in it, but will find out in due course.)

As you can see from the picture below the brightness of the sorrel leaves creates a pretty amazing green pesto!

The other recipe I have that I haven't tried yet, but will as soon as it cools down a bit more, is for Sorrel Soup.  This recipe was given to me by a chef from a classic French cookery book.  I'm looking forward to trying it.

Potage a l'oseille

450g Sorrel
3 tbsp butter
4 cups boiling water
Grate nutmeg
3 egg yolks
1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 cup croutons
S+P to taste

Simmer chopped sorrel in butter in a covered casserole dish for 15 minutes or until very tender.
Add boiling water and season with nutmeg and S+P.
Bring to boiling point and simmer for 5 minutes.
Beat yolks with creme fraiche in a bowl.  Stir 1/4 of soup into cream/egg mixture then pour back into remaining soup.
Heat very gently, stirring occasionally with whisk until slightly thickened.
Serve very hot with croutons.


  1. looks interesting, I've been reading about sorrel, but hadn't seen it before. Do you know if you can grow it from seed? I look forward to seeing if you can save some seed....

    1. I haven't tried yet but I'm sure it's possible, I'll give it a go!

    2. Hi Liz,
      Yes I grow sorrel from seed which I bought from Diggers. Very easy to grow.

  2. Oh thanks for this. I have never eaten sorrel and like the sound of its flavour. Thanks too for your recipies.

    1. No worries. Let me know what you think if you try it.

      Actually I put some of the pesto on steak on the weekend and it was really good. It seems to need some other strong flavours with it I think.

  3. Ottolenghi has a few sorrel recipes in his books if you have them. I made the white beans with sorrel from one of his books and really enjoyed it. I've also tried to make a sorrel sauce and like your pesto I found it really bitter - perhaps it just isn't good when put through the food processor? I should really use my plants more as you are right the flavour is great, especially in salads.

    1. I'll have to investigate some more recipes now, there's heaps of it to use!

  4. The soup sounds really good. I've found that sorrel is very tasty with cream and butter. A while back I made roasted oysters with a sorrel sauce that had butter, cream, shallots and a touch of lemon juice in it - fabulous! The sorrel in that sauce was wilted first and I think that that helps to reduce the bitterness.

    1. Most things taste great with cream and butter!

      Thanks for the tip, I'll definitely try wilting it next time I use it.