French sorrel

French sorrel

Recently, I have seen articles on-line and in print with titles like ’10 Recipes Every Cook Should Know.’ Some of those recipe lists include Leek and Potato soup, which pleases me because it is so delicious and so easy to make. Once you get the hang of it, you don’t even need a recipe.

The basic soup with just four ingredients (including water and salt) tastes so good, I sometimes eat it all, before I add anything else. However, the variations you can make by adding other vegetables are endless. For some years my favorite version was made by adding a whole butternut squash.  One variation I always wanted to make was French Sorrel soup, but I never found French sorrel for sale in a market. Last fall I found a French sorrel plant in a nursery and bought it so, at last, I could make this classic French soup.

I was pretty excited at the prospect of making this soup and tended my little plant carefully, though the French sorrel plant, like other herbs, is said to be hardy and grows well, even with neglect. In Europe (and the US, so I read) it can be found in the wild, and people forage for it in the spring. When I was a child, I liked to find a plant called oxalis or common yellow wood sorrel, growing as a weed in the yard, and I ate both the leaves and the seed pods. It looks rather like a light green clover with small yellow flowers. French sorrel looks more like spinach. Either sorrel has a nice sour tang to it and this soup is considered a spring tonic. My French sorrel plant, shown in the photograph above, has been grown in small raised bed.

Here is my version of the basic leek and potato soup, with the addition of my newly grown French sorrel. I have been making the basic soup in my own way for so long, I cannot really attribute to any one cookbook, but I think I first found a recipe in Julia Child’s French Cooking when I was looking for vichyssoise.

For this recipe, I did not use measurements. Here are the ingredients and instructions. For a vegan or dairy free version, just use water instead of milk. It will still be delicious. If you cannot find sorrel, spinach can be used in this soup recipe, too. It is equally delicious but does not have the sour tang of sorrel.

2 leeks
2 medium baking potatoes
water to cover
a large bunch of French sorrel (or spinach)
salt
pepper
2 cups of whole milk (I am sure you could use whichever variation of milk you prefer) or skip the milk altogether and add more water.

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Slice the leeks crossways into rounds. Slice the potatoes.

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Put leeks and potatoes in a medium pot and add water to cover about two inches higher than the vegetables. Simmer over low heat until the leeks and the potatoes are soft. Meanwhile chop the sorrel or spinach.

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Add some salt and pepper to taste. You will probably want to just eat it all right now, but try to wait.

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Add the chopped sorrel or spinach and simmer until soft. Spinach will only take a couple of minutes; the sorrel will take longer.

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Once the greens are cooked, puree the soup in a blender, food processor, or using an immersion blender. Be very careful if you use a blender, because the hot liquid can burst up out of the blender and burn you. I have experienced that first hand.

After you have pureed the mixture, put it back in the pot, unless you used an immersion blender, in which case it will still be in the pot. Add the milk and more salt and pepper to taste. If you think the soup is a bit thick (my soup in the photo is very thick), add a bit of extra milk or water. Reheat and then serve with some crusty bread and a salad.

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