Anna Jones’ springtime herb and yoghurt soup recipe | The modern cook

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 blossom: springtime is here. In the kitchen, signs of wintertime are fading, although the greener things that spring will bring are still some route away. For create, 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 wintertime cooking and readying us for the fresh flavours and simple dishes that lie ahead.

I buy herbs once a week or so when they appear good at the shops, 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 blooms. This doubles their lifespan( theyll maintain 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 way into more of my cooking than they might otherwise …

Herbs have been peppering everything I cook over the past few weeks: topping bright spring stews, taking centre stage in soft herb omelettes, crowning gently spiced pilafs, and in pestos that sit under a golden slick of petroleum in the fridge.

Ive been buying bunches of sorrel an underused herb, probably because it can be hard to get hold of. If you are able to search it out, its lemony liveliness attains your mouth water like no other food I know: if there was ever a herb to get us ready for springtime, this is it. I love it in salads, cooked under eggs and wilted on toast. This week, I use it with lentils and radishes to make a fairly salad with some crispy-edged lentils.

Four soft, green herbs make an appearance in todays herb soup dill, tarragon, coriander and parsley but actually any combination of your favourites would work. This soup bridges the gap so perfectly: lighting and optimistic in flavor with lemon and herbs, but backed up with butterbeans and yoghurt.

All herbs get their flavors 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 cooking. 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 scene)

Just about the perfect bowlful for this space between winter and spring. 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 most powerful 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.

Serves 4
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 stubbles 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 5 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 husks 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 bowls 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.

Sorrel, Sorrels lemony liveliness builds your mouth water like no other food I know, says Anna Jones. Photograph: Issy Croker for the Guardian

Serves 4
400g radishes, washed
400g new potatoes, washed
3 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1 tbsp honey
800g tinned puy lentils, drained in a sieve and dried on kitchen paper
50ml yoghurt
2 handfuls of sorrel leaves, cleaned and dried well( see above for an alternative)
Salt and black pepper

1 Set the oven to 200 C/ 400 F/ gas mark 6. Halve the radishes and potatoes. Tumble them on to a roasting tray with 1 tbsp of olive oil, half the lemon juice, some salt and the honey.

2 In a separate roasting tray, mix the lentils with a generous pinch of sea salt, another 1 tbsp of olive oil and the zest from the lemon.

3 Set the tray with the radishes and potatoes into the oven for 30 minutes, devoting a shake once or twice during the roasting day. With 15 minutes to go, set the tray with the lentils into the oven. Roast until the objective is crisp and beginning to blister; the radishes and potatoes should be soft and golden brown at the edges.

4 Meanwhile, construct the dres by whisking the yoghurt with a little squeezing of the lemon and the olive oil. Season well with salt and black pepper, savour and add more lemon, if you like, then set aside.

5 Once the lentils and radishes are cooked, remove from the oven and mixture everything in rough layers on a large platter with the sorrel. Drizzle with the yoghurt dressing.

Anna Jones is a chef, novelist and writer of A Modern Way to Eatand A Modern Way to Cook( Fourth Estate ); annajones.co.uk; @we_are_food

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