I have to admit that our garden has been less than prolific in terms of produce for the kitchen this year. This would, I must confess, be mainly down to the almost total absence of green in my own fingers, but I could probably also point some of the blame towards the hot dry spring being followed by a cool, wet summer, rather than vice versa. One thing that has thrived, for all that, is sorrel.
This may be - at least according to our downstairs neighbour, and veg plot sharer, Sam, to whom must go pretty much all the credit for anything we do actually harvest - on account of sorrel being essentially a weed, but nevertheless, we have plenty of it, and it’s very tasty. And as much of it as we harvest, the more of it seems to grow back (which is, I have to say, a suspiciously weed-like characteristic)
If you’re not familiar with sorrel, then it’s a spinachy sort of a leaf, strongly flavoured with a bitter, citrus sour tang. Too strong, bitter and sour – to my mind at least, Becca disagrees – to use raw as a salad leaf, but lightly cooked (which mellows it), or even just whizzed up in the food processor with a few other flavours to round it out, it makes the perfect basis for a zingy partner to fish, a sharper, brighter tasting alternative to spinach, or a star ingredient in it’s own right.
Into the latter category would fall the risotto that Becca made for us, featuring the sorrel, a sprinkling or two of roasted (and shelled, obviously) pistachios, and some reconstituted home dried mushrooms (ceps and other boletes that we collected and dried last autumn and really must get round to using up before mushroom season arrives again, as it surely will any day now, given the positively autumnal summer we’re currently experiencing). It was a risotto similar in spirit, if not in particular flavour to the wild garlic risotto featured here, cooked following the usual risotto method (here) with a mix of vegetable stock and the water from soaking the mushrooms, the wild mushrooms added close to the end, and the sorrel stirred through right at the end because if cooked for more than a few seconds it loses it’s pretty bright green colour and goes a rather military looking khaki (still tasty mind).
Keeping to an Italian theme for making use of the sorrel, it will also make a very tasty sauce for pasta. Or sauces, indeed, because of course the variations available on the basic theme would be essentially endless. What I did, on this occasion was simply to lightly toast a handful of pine nuts in my pan, then add a little olive oil and chuck in a couple of finely chopped shallots - along with some garlic and red chilli, a little salt and pepper and a few thyme leaves - to soften, poured in a glass of white wine then dropped in a big bunch of shredded sorrel leaves and let them cook down. Meanwhile I boiled up a pan of pasta, and sautéed a few small chesnut mushrooms, sliced to 3 or 4mm thick. When the pasta was done, I strained it off – having first added a ladleful of the cooking water to the sorrel sauce, then stirred the pasta into the sauce and the mushrooms, along with some freshly chopped parsley, into the pasta. It was very simple, and very delicious.
You will notice that I used fusilli. Which I normally never, ever do, for reasons that, I admit, are largely down to groundless prejudice – I don’t, generally, like fusilli. No particular reason, I just don’t. On this occasion, for this sauce, though, fusilli just seemed like the ideal pasta shape, as it is for pesto, which in consistency as well as colour this sauce greatly resembled. And you know what, I really think it was. Which just goes to show how prejudice can be overcome. Maybe there’s a lesson in that for the World…
Next I’ll be doing my bit for the World by cooking up some more of our home grown sorrel surplus with some properly sustainable fish…