The chives and wild garlic are up and so is the sorrel (buckler leaved, like little medieval shields). Apparently, sorrel is so short-lived that you will never find it in a supermarket. But I have a row of it, which constantly renews itself. So, how about sorrel soup? It is a delicious, lemony affair which needs careful treatment if it is not going to go a sludge colour. This recipe comes from Margaret Costa’s Four Seasons Cookery Book, which was a pioneering work when it first came out in 1970. I don’t think she ever did another. Another good reason to serve the soup, apart from the fact you will rarely be offered it, is that very few people can tell what it is.
1 1/2 oz butter, 1/2 onion, 2 med potatoes, 1 3/4 pints chicken stock (not from a cube), 2 good handfuls of sorrel leaves, salt, pepper, nutmeg, pinch of sugar, 3-4 tbs cream.
Cook finely chopped onion in the butter till soft. Add peeled and diced potatoes and pour in stock. Season and simmer until potatoes are soft. Wash the sorrel and strip of central rib. Put soup and raw sorrel into a blender – a little at a time – and reduce to a smooth cream. Reheat gently, test the seasonings and stir in the cream. Serve garnished with tiny croutons or with a swirl of whipped cream and chives.
Alternatively, instead of sorrel use wild garlic which sells for a fortune in London while in Swaledale, for example, there are acres of the broad, bright green leaves and my own bog garden has enough to last the season. To make the soup just use garlic leaves instead of sorrel – though it doesn’t need the central rib removed. A nice touch is to use the white flowers of the wild garlic instead of the chives. They are extremely pretty.
I also use the leaves as a garnish instead of chives or parsley. Very good with a leek vinaigrette, on tomato or rice salad. In fact, just as good as chives, though more select and for a shorter season. Add the flowers to salads, too. They look beautiful with marmande tomato salad.