The modern cook: Wake up sleepy palates with this fresh herb soup or a crisp salad fortified with sorrel, roasted radish and lentil
The daffodils have been( and are almost run) and the branches are heavy with bud: spring is here. In the kitchen, signs of wintertime are fading, although the greener things that spring will bring are still some style away. For render, its a no mans land the hungry gap, as its often called.
Right now, soft herbs, wispy and green, fill my kitchen. From savoury flat-leaf parsley to the green tartness of the first sorrel, these first-of-the-year soft herbs, Im sure, are here to wake up our palates, lifting us out of the rhythm of winter cooking and readying us for the fresh flavors and simple dishes that lie ahead.
I buy herbs once a week or so when they look good at the stores, and keep them alongside the milk bottles in the door of my fridge, stand in glass with some cold water at the bottom like cut flowers. This doubles their lifespan( theyll keep for about a week ), and their grassy fragrance is wafted around the room each time I open the fridge a casual reminder of their presence, which means they make their style into more of my cooking than they might otherwise …
Herbs have been peppering everything I cook over the past few weeks: topping bright springtime stews, taking centre stage in soft herb omelettes, crowning gently spiced pilaf, and in pestos that sit under a golden slick of petroleum in the fridge.
Ive been buying bunches of sorrel an underused herb, likely because it can be hard to get hold of. If you can search it out, its lemony liveliness makes your mouth water like no other food I know: if there was ever a herb to get us prepared for spring, this is it. I love it in salads, baked under eggs and wilted on toast. This week, I use it with lentils and radishes to make a pretty salad with some crispy-edged lentils.
Four soft, green herbs make an appearance in todays herb soup dill, tarragon, coriander and parsley but really any combination of your favourites would work. This soup bridges the gap so perfectly: lighting and optimistic in flavour with lemon and herbs, but backed up with butterbeans and yoghurt.
All herbs get their flavours from the essential petroleums within them, but basically differ from each other in strength and structure. Softer herbs like coriander or basil often add more flavour when added at the end of a dish, whereas more traditional British herbs rosemary, sage, thyme, bay add more when theyre used during the cook. Whether or not you follow one of todays recipes, maintain this in mind if and when you decide to infuse a dinner with herbal notes. Springtimes soft herbs require little( or nothing) by way of cooking to do their very best in a meal.
Spring herb and yoghurt soup( main painting)
Just about the perfect bowlful for this space between wintertime and springtime. You can use any soft herbs here only make sure you balance a more neutral herb, such as parsley, with a stronger one such as tarragon( the stronger the flavour the less of that herb you will need ). You need quite a gentle stock for this: if you are using cubes or powder then a cube or 1 tsp of powder is likely to be plenty in 1 litre of water.
Olive petroleum, for frying
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
small bunch of dill, fronds and stubbles separated
small bunch of tarragon, leaves and stems separated
1 bunch coriander, leaves and stalks separated
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves and stems separated
400g tin butter beans, drained
1 litre vegetable stock( see note above)
4 tbsp plain yoghurt
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper
Sumac, to serve
1 Heat 1 tbsp petroleum in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and celery and fry for about five minutes, stirring from time to time, or until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and spices, then cook for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the pan reeks aromatic.
2 Roughly chop the herb stalks, then add them to the pan along with the butterbeans and the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes, or until the stalks have softened.
3 Allow to cool a little, then whizz with a stick blender in the pan until you have a smooth soup. Add the yoghurt, most of the herb leaves( reserving a few for the top of the soup) and whizz again, until smooth.
4 Add the lemon juice and taste, adjusting the seasoning with more salt or pepper. Ladle the soup into bowl and top with a sprinkling of sumac and a few herb leaves.
Sorrel, roasted radish and crispy lentil salad
If you cant get hold of sorrel, scrunch a couple of handful of spinach together with the juice of a lemon, then approximately shred it and scatter over the top in place of the sorrel. It wont be quite as pretty, but it will still savour great.