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Market Star #12 - Sorrel Talk

It’s been a hot minute since I last came out with a Market Star, which is giving me some guilt but mostly an overwhelming feeling of how, how, how is it late Autumn already?!

It seems only last week I was drafting notes to write up the beautiful Geneva market chanterelles we turned into pasta back in August, the fiery joys of the hawker markets in Singapore (early September), the grilled, cumin-spiked meat skewers of the Beijing stalls (also September), and even the early Autumn runner beans tumbling out of baskets in Herne Hill last month.

But since this is supposed to be a seasonal blog, those might have to wait. So I’m squeaking in this week with sorrel, which I think is a deeply underrated plant – and is magically still very present in the markets. It’s got the dexterity of spinach, but is anything but bland – with a piquant lemony taste that’s more zest than juice. It’s versatile, rich in antioxidants and can perk up a meal – what’s not to love?

I started off with a stroke of luck: eighteen giant shell-on prawns at a South London market for a tenner. So, with a friend coming for dinner, I armed myself with a giant crusty baguette and made a huge pot of prawns with ribbons of sorrel, crunchy green beans and fregola in a sauce heavy on the white wine and even heavier on the garlic. The sorrel holds its own in this dish, giving a freshness and lightness to a dish that brings a bit of sunshine to a rainy Sunday evening.

Yes, those are Pom Bears - obligatory at my dinner parties...

And save those shells, because…

…The next evening I treated myself to dinner-for-one of a silky-smooth Prawn Bisque with a Sorrel, Fennel, Butterbean and Chilli Salad, using about a quarter of the stock I got from simmering the heads and shells with aromatics.

The richness of the bisque is offset by the crunch of the fennel, the zing of the sorrel and the fire of fresh chilli. It’s a decadent but easy way to look after yourself on a blustery evening.

Moving away from seafood, I used more of the sorrel to brighten up broad beans braised in a little stock and double cream as a side for a chicken pastilla. As an added bonus, these can be repurposed the next day with an egg cracked into them, for a green hash.

Finally, a recipe for Jingalov Hats – a dish originating in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave between Azerbaijan and Armenia which has been the subject of three decades of conflict.

Following Azerbaijan's lighting military operation on Armenia's remaining territories within the region, over 100,000 ethnic Armenians have fled into Armenia. A massive humanitarian crisis unfolding in a country of just 3 million people, and there is a desperate need for emergency assistance including food, blankets and medical supplies.

The UN has launched an emergency response plan, and there are plenty of organisations accepting donations - I have included some links on the recipe webpage.

Literally meaning “bread with herbs” in Armenian, Jingalov Hats is a flatbread stuffed with mixed herbs which steam inside as the bread cooks.

The exact herbs don’t seem to matter, as long as there is a varied flavour profile: from tangy (such as sorrel) to earthy (such as parsley) to soft (such as coriander). It’s a delicious packed lunch, but it also provides a moment for reflection as you knead the dough from a claggy mess into a smooth ball.

The Also-Rans: other things I've been loving lately

  • Rosie Birkett’s Golden Chickpea, Coconut and Chard (well, Kale) Soup. It’s glorious – perky with lime juice, drizzled with oodles of crispy chilli oil and topped with a cloud of coriander. I used fresh grated turmeric and ginger for their healing powers, and have frozen three portions of this for wintry months.

  • A Grown-Up Carrot and Butterbean Soup: my childhood Baxter’s favourite got an upgrade with more of that fresh turmeric and ginger, and a dash of orange juice.

  • Bre Graham’s Smoked Chilli Pasta alla Vodka and Collapsing Chocolate Cake. Both are from her elegant new book A Table for Two and they’re keepers. The chocolate cake works a bit like a souffle, but as soon as it comes out of the oven you drop it from a height so the middle collapses – to be filled with fruit and cream or whatever you fancy. I used stewed apples and blackberries with cinnamon whipped cream.

  • British classics and Tex Mex fusion canapes for a Red, White & Royal Blue watch-party:

    • Fig and Gorgonzola Quesadillas

    • Cornbread with Cheddar and Chives

    • Venison Tacos

    • Bloody Mary Prawn Tacos

    • Sage and Autumn Mushroom Tacos

As ever, let me know how you get on in the comments!

Returning next week with the majestic QUINCE...

Susannah x

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