Spinach and Sorrel Soup, The Sonnet

Soup is one of the best foods ever inven­ted, so why are most of the ref­er­ences to it in lit­er­at­ure unashamedly dis­mal? Soup is usu­ally a meta­phor for hard times, dour land­ladies and dubi­ous chefs. The 20th cen­tury Amer­ican author Mar­garet Hal­sey cap­tured the ‘sad soup genre’ per­fectly when she said that the broth she was served ‘tasted as if it had been drained out of the umbrella stand.’

So here comes the fight­back. This spin­ach and sor­rel soup should have a son­net writ­ten about it. Or a novel in which the prot­ag­on­ist is restored to good health and good for­tune after just one spoon­ful. It’s the rich, deep, full-throttle green of a vin­tage racing car and gives instant vigour and zip to any­one who so much as looks at it. 

Sor­rel is a beau­ti­ful herb, espe­cially this red-veined vari­ety, but it’s often hard to find in the shops. I have a friend who keeps an allot­ment purely so she can main­tain her sor­rel sup­plies. But this week I spot­ted an entire tray of pot­ted sor­rel in my local shop, with reduced price stick­ers attached. So I res­cued the lot.

You may know by now that I love pic­nics and long walks. My mum used to put a flask of soup in one pocket of her coat and hot cheese, tomato and mus­tard rolls in the other and we would set off. Spin­ach and sor­rel soup would be the per­fect walk­ing companion. Make it, eat it and start writ­ing in rhym­ing couplets.

Spin­ach and Sor­rel Soup

Serves 4

1 floury potato, chopped into smallish, even-sized chunks

I medium onion, cut into sim­ilar sized pieces

1 clove gar­lic, sliced

1 knob butter

500ml veget­able stock

400g fresh spin­ach, coarsely chopped

40 sor­rel leaves — the sor­rel gives a del­ic­ate lemon back­ground fla­vour, but if you can’t find sor­rel, add an extra 50g or so of spin­ach and add a little grated lemon zest

Hand­ful of micro herbs such as cori­ander and red amar­anth to sprinkle over at the end — or just some chopped chives

Spoon­ful of cream (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Melt the but­ter in a pan and cook the onion, gar­lic and potato together gently for five minutes or so, without col­our­ing them. Add the veget­able stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a gentle sim­mer for around 15 minutes until the potato is soft. 

Add 200g of the spin­ach and all the sor­rel leaves, sea­son with salt and pep­per and cook for a fur­ther five minutes. The sor­rel leaves give a del­ic­ate lemon back­ground fla­vour, but if you can’t find sor­rel, just add an extra 50g or so of spin­ach instead and a little grated lemon zest. Take the pan off the heat and add the remain­ing uncooked spin­ach. Blend imme­di­ately and adjust the season­ing. Serve with a drizzle of cream, if using, and a sprink­ling of herbs. Adding half the spin­ach at the end keeps the mag­ni­fi­cent deep emer­ald col­our of the soup.