Anna Jones’ spring 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 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 appear good at the shops, and keep them alongside the milk bottles in the door of my fridge, standing in glasses 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 making such a style into more of my cook than they might otherwise …

Herbs have been peppering everything I cook over the past few weeks: topping bright springtime stew, 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, likely because it can be hard to get hold of. If you are able to search it out, its lemony liveliness induces your mouth water like no other food I know: if there was ever a herb to get us “re ready for” springtime, 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 truly any combination of your favourites would work. This soup bridges the gap so perfectly: sunlight 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 fundamentally 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, keep this in mind if and when you decide to infuse a snack 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 image)

Just about the perfect bowlful for this space between winter and spring. You can use any soft herbs here just make sure you balance a more neutral herb, such as parsley, with a stronger one such as tarragon( the stronger the flavor the less of that herb you will need ). You require quite a gentle stock for this: “if youre 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 oil, 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 husks separated
small bunch of tarragon, foliages and husks divided
1 bunch coriander, leaves and stalks separated
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves and husks 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 oil 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 stubbles, then add them to the pan along with the butterbeans and the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes, or until the stems 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 handfuls of spinach along 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 stimulates your mouth water like no other food I know, tells 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 foliages, washed 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 roast tray, mix the lentils with a generous pinch of ocean salt, another 1 tbsp of olive oil and the zest from the lemon.

3 Put the tray with the radishes and potatoes into the oven for 30 minutes, giving a shake once or twice during the roast day. With 15 minutes to run, put the tray with the lentils into the oven. Roast until “they il be” crisp and beginning to blister; the radishes and potatoes should be soft and golden brown at the edges.

4 Meanwhile, make the dressing by whisking the yoghurt with a little squeezing of the lemon and the olive oil. Season well with salt and black pepper, savor 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, writer 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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