Common sorrel or garden sorrel, is a perennial herb that is cultivated as a garden herb or leaf vegetable. Other names for sorrel include spinach dock and narrow-leaved dock. It is used by many different cultures including Romania, Russia, Ukraine and Hungary to name a few. Sorrel is often paired with spinach.
My mother-in-law introduced me to this perennial by making me sorrel soup. Elsa called it peasant soup, claiming it had healing qualities. She said she used to collect wild sorrel in Estonia for her step-mother. To Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians, it was a spring staple. Like many things cultural, each cook approached it differently. Some added barley, some oatmeal, many pushed the tartness adding lemon juice. Elsa always served hers with smoked pork chops.
I really enjoyed Elsa’s sorrel soup, yet contemplated a different approach. I loved the tartness of sorrel; how it tasted clean and new, like spring. I also liked the addition of barley, which gave it substance. Sorrel is in the spinach family, but is a more tender green and breaks down completely in the soup. I wanted the sweetness of shallot rather than onion, and some fresh tarragon. The tarragon led to the addition of egg yolk for a silky texture and a bit of fresh lemon juice to keep it bright. Although it ended up completely different from Elsa’s, it reminded me of the Greek lemon-chicken soup, Avgolemeno. Elsa was my inspiration and mentor, spring was my guide.
- 1 Tbsp sweet butter, 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 small shallots, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1/3 cup pearled barley
- 1 Tbsp fresh tarragon, minced
- 4 cups sorrel, stemmed removed, roughly chopped
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- In a medium sized pot, melt the butter with the olive oil. Saute the shallots and garlic until soft. Do not brown. Add barley, stir to cover with oil.
- Add chicken stock, cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until barley is soft.
- Add tarragon and sorrel. Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
- Take a ladle of broth and add it to the egg yolks off heat. Whisk until combined, then slowly add it to back to the soup.
- Simmer an addition 3 minutes to thicken soup. Take off heat, add lemon juice.
Serve immediately. Yields 4 servings
” Sorrel soup….you cut the egg into slices, and you eat it with the green soup. And the mixture of the sharp green acidity and round comfort of the egg reminds you of something extraordinary and far away.
Certainly not, not even for Poles. Of what then?
……Of survival, perhaps.”