lunch, vegetables

Spring Onion Soup, wild sorrel and sherry

May 12, 2009

spring onion soup

I know what you are thinking… “Matt on Twitter you promised a blog post about food photography, and then you go and show up with some lousy onion soup….”.

Well, time is in short supply in the Wrightfood household, we have work deadlines, a small party to cook for this weekend, so the big long blog post about food photography is going to have to wait till next week. Go on, go cry into your onion soup…

I picked up a blooming great bunch of just the best spring onions I have seen in a while at the market recently, and was wondering what to do with them for almost a week. Seems almost wrong to fry them up with bacon (there goes my readership.. I dissed bacon), I wanted a more delicate presentation that really showed the subtlety of new season onions. Danika has also been on at me to make more soups.

Well, it is kind of a no brainer then.

I didn’t want to go down the classic French onion soup route though. Not that there is anything wrong with that, if Le Pichet is serving it, I am eating it. I wanted to do something a little bit different, and certainly lighter, and again something that lets the onion be just that.

Walking around the farmers market just this weekend with our little 2 year old, I stopped in at Found & Foraged, and to my delight they had Sorrel. Not just your regular cultivated French sorrel, but these small perfectly delicate leaves of wild wood sorrel. The two year old wanted a taste, got the nod from the stallholder, and we took a taste. Ohhh so fantastic. The leaf just gently melts in your mouth giving a slightly bitter, acidic, almost citrus taste. It then hit me… That would just be perfect sitting on top of an onion soup – the bitterness would work just wonderfully against the sweetness of cooked onions.

1 bag sold to the bloke with an English accent, and a two year old trying to yank out more sorrel from the samples box.

The French have often added sorrel to soups, and there are plenty of soups out there where sorrel is the main star. The leaves are delicate, and mix into soup particularly well. The only problem you have to deal with is that the leaves oxidise (go brown) really quickly in hot liquid. So, you have three options in my mind – serve the soup warm but not scorching, down the soup bloody quickly, or just plain deal with the leaves turning brown (but still tasting great). In the end I went for a little of all three..

Sherry is also a classic addition to an onion soup, and quite frankly I never like to shy too far away from booze in my brothy soups. The sherry here gives a wonderful richness, almost fortification to the soup, without being too overpowering. Just make sure to use a dry sherry, otherwise the soup is going to end up being too sweet.

The soup is incredibly simple. The base is just a quick vegetable stock made from simmering some herbs and veg in water, all whilst we are slowly cooking down the sliced spring onions. The broth is strained into the onions, seasoned well, and left to bubble away for a bit. Splosh in the sherry, and boil to cut out some alcohol. This then just simply gets spooned into a bowl, and topped with the wild sorrel. What came out was a surprisingly delicate, simple, light soup – just perfect for the rather ridiculously dull Seattle weather we are having right now.

Spring Onion soup with sherry and wild sorrel recipe

5 spring onions

3 tablespoons of butter

1 glass of dry sherry

2 handfuls of wild sorrel (or garden sorrel slightly chopped up)

for the broth:

1 medium onion

1 small leek

1 carrot

1 celery stalk

2 cloves of garlic

1 bay leaf

4 parlsey sprigs

10 black peppercorns

a little salt

5 cups of water

roughly chop the vegetables for the stock. Put them in a large pot, along with everything else for the stock. Bring to the boil, and simmer for about 30minutes.

Whilst the broth is simmering, slice the bulbs of the onions, saving the tops for another use. In another large saucepan melt a couple of tablespoons of butter. Add the onions in, and gently cook them for about 20 minutes, until tender, but not browned. Add more butter if it all looks a bit dry.

Strain the broth through a fine sieve into the pan with onions in. Season with salt and pepper, and bring to a simmer. Simmer this for a further 20 minutes.

Pour in a good glug of sherry into the soup. Bring to the boil. Boil for about 10 minutes, and give it a taste. Add more booze if you think it could use it. Adjust seasoning if required.

Once ready, turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool slightly. Ladle into bowls, and right before serving top with a small handful of the sorrel.

Serve with crusty bread, if that is your thing.

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  • Giff May 12, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I hear you when it comes to work intruding on food blogging :)

    It is almost a bizarre and unfair relief that you didn’t use bacon. Not that I don’t love bacon and all pork products to a ridiculous degree, but I’m starting to think that some folks think it is the Secret to Success, i.e. to attracting blog visitors and they work it in everywhere and in ways increasingly over the top. What is it about blog browsing brains that is turned on by sugar and bacon?

    I also love that you use your 2 year old to sneak tastes from the market. I have to try that technique!

    Been wanting to try sorrel forever. I’m not sure I’ve ever even tasted it. My wife has me watching Brideshead Revisited (old jeremy irons version) right now and they had a sorrel soup last night.

  • Lang May 12, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Good call on the wood sorrel (oxalis). I bet the slightly sour taste of the greens was perfect next to sweet young onions. I’ve been seeing a lot of wood sorrel lately in the foothills and thinking about ways to use it. This looks like just the ticket, especially since it’s still very much hot soup season. Sigh.


  • Erik May 12, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    What a great alternative to the heavier French Onion soup…perfect for spring. I have never tried Sorrel, but your description makes it sound like a perfect match for a refreshing soup rather than a hearty one. Does it go well in a salad, or is the taste too strong?

  • mattwright May 12, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    Giff: I too get rather sick of people just adding pork product to everything – restaurants seem to be doing it quite a bit of late too.

    Lang: When is the weather here going to get better! The wood sorrel is fantastic though, this was my first taste of it, and I love it.

    Erik: I quite like it in salad, as long as you don’t have too many other bitter leaves in there. The texture is so soft and pillowy, it works well. Mind you, I like a lot of varied flavor and texture to the leaves in my salads, rather than just relying on the dressing.

  • redmenace May 12, 2009 at 7:15 pm

    Absolutely gorgeous. I saw this picture on foodgawker and I went straight to it. I should’ve known it was you. I LOVE Found and Forraged too!

  • Marta May 12, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    I think simplicity is what makes spring onion soup so great, so comforting and elegant at the same time :) Booze in brothy soups is key!! Like you said, it adds body to them.
    Beautiful photo :)

  • Lang May 12, 2009 at 8:41 pm

    Note to Erik: Wood sorrel is delicious in salads just like Matt says, without overdoing the bitter greens. But use sparingly in general b/c oxalic acid (a component of wood sorrel) upsets digestion in large quantities.

    Matt, I’m making this soup!

  • matt wright May 12, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Tip top advice from Lang there, I didn’t know about oxalic acid in it!

  • Dana May 12, 2009 at 9:25 pm

    The soup looks and sounds absolutely lovely. I love sorrel but have never had the wild variety. I love found and foraged and will look for some this weekend.

  • Hank May 12, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    I use sorrel all the time (it has teken over a piece of my back yard) but only raw; it is great as a liner in sandwiches you won’t eat for a few hours. Bread, sorrel, mustard, cheese, meat, cheese, mustard, more sorrel, other piece of bread. The bread won’t go soggy and you get that great lemony taste.

    As for cooking it, does ANYONE know how to keep it from turning olive drab? It’s been one of my big failures all these years…

  • Katie May 13, 2009 at 2:35 am

    that broth looks ridiculously flavorful. my glands are going crazy haha. i can practically taste it.

  • Hélène May 13, 2009 at 2:44 am

    I missed that on Twitter. Hopefully that photography post will come soon because I love your photos. Another twist on French Onion Soup is to make it the way you like it and then add a crouton (from French baguette) that you toast in the oven with goat cheese on top. Serve it on top of your soup. It’s delicious.

  • mallory elise May 13, 2009 at 3:29 am

    i would cry into my onion soup if i had any! :P

  • aforkfulofspaghetti May 13, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Just discovered your blog (yes, I know – what have I been doing all this time?)

    Good stuff. Interested in the onion soup/sorrel combo – not one I would have thought of…

  • Y May 13, 2009 at 9:21 pm

    I missed your tweet about the food photography post, but I’m certainly looking forward to it now that you’ve promised it! That bowl of soup looks like just what I need! I love sorrel, especially when paired with fish, a la Elizabeth David.

  • Y May 13, 2009 at 9:23 pm

    By the way, I’m one of those guilty of putting pork in almost anything, especially my dinners.. but recently also chucked some in a brownie!

  • matt wright May 14, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Dana: certainly do, I am addicted to the stuff right now
    Hank: If you find out if that is possible, I would LOVE to know
    Katie: thanks!
    Helene: Photography post will be next!
    Mallory: haha
    aforkfullofspaghetti: Thanks! I like the tartness of the sorrel with the soup very much
    Y: I would love for you to do a photography post actually, you are a way better photographer than I.
    Pork in a brownie! blimey..

  • mpg May 15, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    I’d like to see that 2yr old shop at the famers’ market…I can only imagine!

    Yes, I’ve totally fallen in love with sorrel out here. This soup is so up my alley, I’ll have to give it a try! Oh and you earn some paneer points with me by dissing bacon ;)

  • Rebecca May 16, 2009 at 4:01 am

    Yum! I’m still looking for a good source of sorrel, which so many people have told me grows abundantly in their own gardens. My mother-in-law makes a great Ukrainian style schi, which I adapted using much less sorrel on my site. BTW–2 is getting really fun–we are really into garden, garden, garden over here!

  • codfish May 16, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I’ve never thought to have a light, springy onion soup—but this sounds wonderful. And I’ve been such a sherry fiend lately…

  • rachel May 17, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    beautiful and delicate, the sorrel is almost heart shaped in the photo.
    I like a good splosh of sherry (one for the pan and one for the cook.)

  • Heather May 17, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Oxalis oregana is a bright and tangy little plant that grows wild all over the Pacific NW, but you have to be careful not to eat too much or you can get a build-up of oxaloacetate crystals in your kidneys, bladder and/or urethra. It gives the wonderful sensation of pissing glass.

  • Heather May 17, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Me again – Sorry to nerd out on the botany (you know I can’t help it)! Wild wood sorrel (aka oxalis) is not the same sorrel as the French use. The sorrel we think of as a culinary plant is actually in the buckwheat family, a totally different botanical family than this wood sorrel. However, there are lots of weedy sorrels that are in the same genus (Rumex), so it seems to me like farmer’s market guy should have been selling dock or sheep sorrel instead of oxalis.

    /botanical soapbox

  • kitchenbeard May 19, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    I add a little lemon juice to pestos when I want them to stay green. The citric acid inhibits oxidation and ‘ve even seen Michael Chiarello add citric acid powder to his pestos to avoid changing the flavor of his sauce.

    Perhaps a little lemon juice in the broth would help?

  • Jen May 20, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    The darling sorrel leaves remind me of four leaf clovers. I’ll try my luck with this soup!

  • White On Rice Couple May 29, 2009 at 4:20 am

    In school, I used to tromple all over wild sorrel leaves, treating them like weeds. Actually, they are weeds! But they’re delicious and now I can hardly find them down here.
    Your beautiful dish is just making me regret how badly I treated sorrel back then!! Can’t wait to try it when I can get my hands on some!
    Wow the colors are so pretty, the sorrel just pop!