The name 'sorrel' applies to several related plants, including French sorrel and local wild sorrel. Various types of sorrel has been cultivated for centuries in Europe and Africa.
French Sorrel is a perennial herb that grows in a compact form and reaches 50 cm high with some species. The leaves resemble those of common dock weed which is closely related. French sorrel is endemic to the highland areas of southern France and surrounding regions where it still grows wild.
Sorrel leaves may added to salads to provide some zing. Sorrel leaves can also be pureed in soups and sauces and added to quiches and other baked dishes. Sorrel leaves have a strong acid flavor that is similar to wild strawberries or kiwifruit. The name derives from the French for 'sour', relating to their acidity.
The leaves are generally large, bright-green, smooth and crisp, and are generally arrow-shaped. Sorrel is very sour with a lemony flavor and it shouldn't be consumed in very large amounts as it contains oxalic acid which can cause kidney stones.
Sorrel is hardy perennial plant that is generally replaced every for two or three years. It is quicker to divide the plants by the roots,
than grow them from seed. Sorrel can be grown in the garden and in pots and other containers, both outdoors and indoors. Plant in the fall
(autumn) for first harvest in winter. It can be placed in full or partial sun. To grow from seed, sprinkle the seed over the surface of the
soil and cover with sand or light soil to a depth of half a finger-nail. Keep the soil moist, but not wet, for about 7 days until the seeds germinate.
Thin the seedlings to a spacing of about 4 inches ( 5 cm) between plants in pots and the garden. When the seedlings become established they can be
replanted in the garden. You can start harvesting small number of leaves when the plants are only about 6 inches high (15 cm). The leaves can be
harvested regularly and the plant should be cut back and not allowed to go to seed.
You can cut it all the way down, and it will grow back quickly. In mild climates sorrel will remain green all through the winter months.
Common Uses for Sorrel
A great way to start using sorrel is to add a sprinkling to your salads. For any recipe that includes spinach or similar, you can replace 10-25% with sorrel for some extra zing and zest. Sorrel can also be added to sandwiches with the lettuce. Shredded sorrel is a wonderful addition to soups with a fish, seafood or tomato base.
It can also be added to a homemade pesto or for various pasta and white sauce dishes. It is particularly useful for fish sauces. Sorrel is one of those herbs, such as coriander and basil that are best sprinkled into the dish at the last minute instead being added earlier and cooking for long periods of time.
Sorrel does not dry very well, and fresh sorrel can be hard to find. But when it is available buy extra quantities, puree or chop the leaves and keep frozen in the refrigerator to use as seasoning. You can freeze small portions in ice cube trays and simply add a cube to dishes as required.
One tip is to made adjustments to the recipe for the sourness and acidity of the sorrel use to replace other ingredients. It is a good idea to reduce the amount of vinegar or lemon in the recipe. Sorrel an excellent herb for people on salt-free diets because it adds seasoning and flavor without the need for salt.
Sorrel adds such a lovely counter-edge and tang to delicately flavored and creamy dishes – such as potatoes, fish dishes, pasta, eggs or chicken. A simple and versatile sauce can be made by wilting the leaves in a little hot butter and combining it with a dash of cream. When added to hot pan, the sorrel wilts and its bright green color fades to a dark brownish-green in color, but this is normal.
The leaves are easy to prepare - just wash them well after removing any tough stalks. Large leaves can be shredded by simply rolling them up and thinly slicing roll them up first into fat "cigars", then slice them across thinly.
Nutrients in Sorrel
Like all leaf vegetables, sorrel is mostly water and so is low in calories, protein and carbohydrate. The table below summarizes the main nutrients in sorrel.
Sorrel is an excellent source of vitamins such as provitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin B9. It is also a good source of minerals such as iron, calcium and magnesium.
Sorrel like many green vegetables such as beet leaves contain oxalic acid, which may crystallize as oxalate stones in the kidneys in some people and so excessive amounts should be avoided.
Sorrel and Custard Tart
300g fresh sorrel
75g icing sugar
200ml whole milk
200ml double cream
2 large eggs, and 2 egg yolks
Knob of butter
For the shortcrust pastry
75ml cold milk
1 large egg yolk
125g cold, unsalted butter, sliced into cubes
35g icing sugar
200g plain flour
Pinch of salt
Make the pastry by mixing the flour, salt and sugar together in a bowl. Add the butter pieces and rub it into flour with your finder tips until the flour mixture has the consistency of breadcrumbs. This can also be done in a food processor. Add the egg yolk, and small portions of milk while mixing, so that the mixture comes together as a firm dough. Pour the mixture out on to a lightly floured surface and knead gently and shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic film or a cloth, and cool for about 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 190 degrees C (375 degrees F) and warm a baking sheet inside. Using and rolling pin, flatten and spread the pastry, and use it to line your tart tin, with a little excess hanging over the sides. Prod all over the pastry with a fork and cool for about 10 minutes. Line the pastry with baking paper or foil, fill with baking beads or uncooked rice or lentils and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beads, rice and paper, and cook for another 5 minutes. Check that the pastry is cooked but not browned. Leave to cool and then trim the pastry hanging over the sides. Reduce the oven temperature to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F).
Preparing the filling - Wash the sorrel and remove the stalks and veins. Shake dry and shred finely by rolling the leaves into 'cigars' and chopping finely. Heat about half the butter in a heavy, large size frying pan over moderate heat. Add half the sorrel and wilt the sorrel and gently cook the leaves for a few minutes, stirring often. Place in a sieve or colander to cool. Repeat the process with the other half of the sorrel. When all the sorrel is cool, squeeze out any excess water with your hands.
In a large bowl, whisk eggs and egg yolks, and then add the milk and cream and whisk again. Add the sifted icing sugar and whisk again to dissolve, then stir in the wilted sorrel and raisins. Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry case. Use a fork or spoon to distribute the raisins and sorrel evenly throughout the tart filling. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until the filing is set and the top is just golden. Leave to cool to room temperature before serving.
Poached Eggs on Toast with Creamy Sorrel Sauce
2 thick slices of crusty bread
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon double cream or creme fraiche
100g fresh sorrel
2 eggs for poaching
1 egg yolk
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
Bring a pan of water to a boil for poaching the eggs. Meanwhile, roll up the sorrel leaves and chop very finely. Using a small pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the sorrel leaves and fry gently to wilt the leaves, turning occasionally. Add the creme fraiche or standard cream and stir until the mixture is steaming hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and let the sauce cool for several minutes. Add the egg yolk while stirring. Season the sauce with pepper, salt, a little sugar. Next poach the eggs. Toast the bread, spread with butter and pour on the warm sauce and add the eggs. Serve immediately.
Red Lentil Soup with Sorrel
1 tablespoon double cream
75-100g sorrel leaves, roughly shredded
500ml vegetable or chicken stock
75g red lentils
1 medium carrot, finely sliced
1 stem celery, finely sliced
1 onion, peeled, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using low heat, melt half the butter in a saucepan and add the celery, onion and carrot. Cover and cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes. The vegetables should be starting to soften, but not be browned. Mix in the stock and lentils and simmer on medium heat for about 15-20 minutes, or until both the lentils and vegetables are soft. Transfer the soup mixture to a blender bowl. Add the remaining butter, raw sorrel and the cream. Blend until smooth. Adjust the thickness to the way you like it by adding a little more stock or water.
Fish fillet with fresh sorrel and spinach sauce
6 slices lemon
1 knob of butter
6 firm flesh fish such as salmon
For the sauce
75g (3 oz) butter, melted
1/2 lemon, just the juice
2 teaspoons plain flour
300ml (1/2 pint) low-fat cream
1 egg yolk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g (1 oz) fresh sorrel, finely chopped
25g (1 oz) spinach, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F). Position each fish fillet on a piece of greaseproof paper, or baking paper, place a slice of lemon and piece of butter on top of the fish. Bring the four side of the paper together to form a small parcel. Leave enough space inside the parcel for the steam to move around during cooking. Fold over the sides of the paper to seal. Cook the fish parcels in the oven for about 20 minutes. When cooked remove from the oven and unwrap the parcels
For the sauce - Transfer the lemon juice, melted butter, flour, egg yolk and cream into a food processor or blender and pulse briefly several times until the sauce is smooth. Season with pepper and salt, to taste and blend again. Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl and suspend the bowl over a saucepan of slowly simmering water. Whisking continuously for about 10 minutes, thicken the sauce over low heat and then add the spinach and sorrel and continue cooking gently for a few minutes. Check the seasoning and pour the hot sauce over the cooked salmon just before serving.
Goat Cheese Quiche with Sorrel
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
3-4 ounces goat cheese or other cheese
a few scallions, chopped
2-3 cups sorrel, coarsely chopped
Preheat oven to 10 degrees C (375 degrees F). Spread the crumbled goat cheese (or any other cheese with a strong flavor) over the bottom of a pie crust. Sprinkle with chopped scallions and sorrel. Whisk the eggs, milk and salt together, and pour the mixture over the greens and cheese. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over the top. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until the top of the quiche is golden brown.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
2 cups coarsely chopped fresh sorrel
1/2 teaspoon salt
In a blender or food processor, blend the sorrel, garlic, parsley, Parmesan, pine nuts and oil until well combined, but not smooth and creamy. Leave it a little chunky. Pour the pesto into a jar and seal with a lid. The fresh sorrel pesto will keep in a covered jar in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks.
Fish and Green Leaves
2 pounds thin fish fillets
one garlic clove
few leaves of sorrel
1/2 pound spinach
1/2 pound chard
Place the roughly chopped greens and the crushed garlic clove in a pot and cook slowly for about 10 minutes. Add the fish, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until just cooked ( don't overcook the fish). Take a piece of crusty bread and serve the fish and the chopped greens on top.
Omelette with Cream and Sorrel
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 cup sorrel, cleaned and trimmed
1 tablespoon cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
Roll the sorrel leaves and thinly slice. Heat half the butter in a heavy pan, add the chopped sorrel and salt and cook gently over low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Combine the cream and eggs in a bowl and whisk gently. Add the sorrel mixture and mix together. Add the rest of the butter to a small skillet and heat until butter is just starting to brown. Add the egg mixture and stir quickly with the back of a spoon or fork until the eggs are evenly distributed over on the bottom of the skillet. Keep moving the unset eggs around the pan until there is no liquid left. Do not overcook, and leave the top moist but not runny. Fold the omelette in half and serve immediately.
Jamaican Sorrel Drink
6 cups water
3 cups sorrel, (red Hibiscus pedals)
1 ounce piece of fresh ginger root, chopped
6 whole pimientos
1 cup granulated sugar
Bring the 6 cups of water to the boil. Add the ginger, sorrel and cloves to the boiling water and cook for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and allow the mixture to steep for 12 to 24 hours, or longer if desired. Strain the juice through a fine sieve and sweeten to taste. Add rum or red wine if desired. Serve cold in a glass of ice.