GROW FOOD slow food Have your garden and eat it too. A practical guide to organic gardening in the sub-tropics with step-by-step instructions and delicious seasonal recipes. Come with me too on some of my travels in Australia, Europe, Asia and beyond.

THIS WAS NOT A PLANT I WAS FAMILIAR WITH FROM MY CHILDHOOD in England or early adulthood in Australia.  I first encountered sorrel Rumex scutatus when I was working as a landscaper in Sydney and specializing in installing edible gardens.  I had a lovely client, Lilly, an elderly Hungarian lady who had had a fall, which left her mobility impaired,  and she wanted me to build a raised vegetable garden  – sorrell was the first thing she wanted me to plant telling me it was very popular in Hungarian cuisine for making soups, sauces and stuffing fish.  Making the garden wasn’t hard – finding somewhere to buy sorrel in the 1980’s was the challenge!

Thirty years later, up here in the sub-tropics, it’s a common kitchen garden plant because it is so easy to grow and trouble-free – and we seem to have become more adventurous eaters.  The common ‘wild’ plant in USA, Asia and Europe is a different variety than this one which is also known as French sorrel.  It seems to survive in ‘wet’ and ‘dry’, sun and part shade and all but the boggiest of soils. It behaves as a perennial plant for two-three years before you need to re-plant it and grows like spinach.  It is very nutritious and has a greeny-lemony flavour.  Just a word of caution though – the high oxalic acid content means that you can eat it raw, but sparingly, and it is better cooked.  I use the young new leaves as part of a mixed salad to give a tangy bite.  I have also made soups with it and this delicious sorrel tart is another family favourite.

NOTE:  Some people seem to tremble in fear at the thought of making pastry from scratch.  Apart from the ready made stuff tasting like the cardboard it’s packaged in – this is really easy. YOU JUST NEED A FOOD PROCESSOR.

Pastry – makes enough for 2 tarts and you can put half in the freezer for the next one!
200g butter, chilled and cut into pieces
250g plain wholemeal flour
1 tbs Greek yoghurt (you can use sour cream or a tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese)

  1. Heat oven to 200oC
  2. Place flour and butter in food processor and pulse until resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Add yoghurt and pulse again until mixture forms one lump.
  4. If it is a very hot day I recommend wrapping it in cling-film to let it ‘rest’ in the fridge for a while.  In warm weather it is best to make pastry in the morning, otherwise it will just fall apart.
  5. Roll out dough until it is 5mm then use it to line a 20cm quiche dish.
  6. Line the pastry with baking paper and cover with dried beans (you can re-use these for the next time)
  7. Put in the oven for 15 minutes then remove the baking paper and beans and bake for further 5 mins.

NOTE: This is called ‘baking-blind’ (now, that could be an apt title for my biography!)  It is worth going through the process as it stops the pastry from rising and going soggy when you put a ‘wet’ filling in it.

Freshly picked sorrel from the garden

1 red onion, chopped
1 leek white part only, chopped
(or you can use 2 small onions.  I just use leek because I have them in the garden and they give a sweetness to the dish)
knob butter
600g sorrel leaves stripped from stem
6 large eggs
150g soft goats cheese (or crumbled feta)
sea salt and black pepper

  1. Fry onion and leek in stainless steel pan with melted butter and cook until soft.
  2. Add sorrel leaves and sweat until soft. Cool (otherwise it will cook the eggs!)
  3. Transfer to food processor and blend.
  4. Add eggs, goats cheese, salt and pepper
  5. NOTE: You can use feta, but just crumble it over the top – don’t blend it.  OR leave out the goats cheese and feta and add 1 cup cream and sprinkle some grated parmesan on top. Pour the filling into the warm pastry case and bake on 180oC until set 40-50 mins.
Sorrel and goats cheese tart

Comment from Blake – my son-in-law. “This brought to mind that David Bowie song “with your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue, the only thing I ever got from you was…sorrel”.

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