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Recipe Collection

Nettle, Sorrel & Wild Garlic Soup

Elena Heatherwick — Summer Kitchens — 2020

Towards the end of April and during May, before much grew in people’s kitchen gardens, the fields and forests of Ukraine would already be filled with young nettles and wild sorrel. Foraging wasn’t so uncommon in the past and is now being rediscovered, in Ukraine and elsewhere.

This nettle, sorrel and wild garlic soup, which is sometimes called green borsch, can also be made with chicken stock and served with chopped boiled eggs, but usually I just add a spoonful of crème fraîche to my bowl and eat it with a chunk of crusty bread.

Serves: 6

Time: 1 hour

Photography: Elena Heatherwick & Joe Woodhouse
Food Styling: Olia Hercules

Season: Spring


2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil 1 onion, cut into 1cm dice
2 carrots, scrubbed and cut into 1cm dice
1 small celeriac, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
3 celery sticks, cut into 1cm dice
1 leek, white part only, cut into 1cm dice

3 big garlic cloves, peeled 1 bay leaf
6 baby potatoes
100g sorrel, sliced
75g young nettle tips (the top few leaves on each stem)
50g wild garlic, sliced (flowers kept for garnish)

3 spring onions, thinly sliced
Handful of chopped dill
Handful of chopped parsley
Sea salt and black pepper
Crème fraîche, to finish – optional


  1. Pour the oil into your favourite soup-making pot – I use a cast-iron casserole – and put it over a medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot and sizzling, add the onion, carrots, celeriac, celery and leek. Sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time: you want them to become caramelised in parts, but not scorched (if the pan feels too crowded, you can fry the vegetables in batches). Now add the garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, still stirring, until fragrant and starting to get a little colour. 

  2. Pour in 2.5 litres of cold water and add the bay leaf. Season lightly with salt and bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes with the lid half on. 

  3. Add the whole potatoes and cook for 10 minutes or until they are soft. Finally, add the sorrel, nettles and wild garlic and switch off the heat. Taste the soup and add more salt if needed. 

  4. Place a potato in each soup bowl and lightly crush it with a spoon. Ladle over the broth and then sprinkle with the wild garlic flowers, spring onions and herbs to serve. Finish with a dollop of crème fraîche, if you like, and a good grinding of pepper. 

Read more: Summer Kitchens

Olia’s Summer Kitchens explores the culinary identity of beautiful eastern Europe and her native Ukraine. With beautiful photography, it’s a book filled with stories and memories of tiny buildings called summer kitchens, and an entry into a cuisine and a culture that’s more important now than ever. Extract taken from Olia Hercules’ Summer Kitchen (Bloomsbury Publishing UK, £26 Hardback). Photography © Elena Heatherwick and Joe Woodhouse.

— cook’s notes

You don’t have to sauté the vegetables before adding the water, but if you do, you will draw out more sweetness from them and the soup will be perfectly balanced: sour, sweet and slightly hot from the wild garlic and black pepper. If there are any leftovers, you can blitz them to make a puréed soup (which freezes very well) and then serve it with some crumbled blue cheese on top.

— about the author

Olia Hercules was born in the south of Ukraine in 1984, and spent most of her childhood in Cyprus. After moving to the UK and working as a chef in restaurants such as Ottolenghi, she published Mamushka, a cookbook that celebrates her family recipes, from Ukraine and Moldova to Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. She has since published two more cookbooks, championing the culinary traditions of her homeland and surrounding, lesser known cultures.


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