It’s true…. I have been incredibly quiet in recent years on this website – family life takes over and something has to take a back seat, and in this case, it was this website. But, I am going to try and update it more often from now, and why not start back with one of the most abundant and useful of all wild greens – the stinging nettle?
Stinging Nettles (Urtica dioica) are found just about anywhere here in the UK, as well as many other parts of the world. Their formidable reputation means that most of us simply ignore them, or eradicate them from our gardens, but we really shouldn’t. Even if not being used for culinary purposes they are an essential wild plant for much of our wildlife.
I’ve already discussed turning them into a potent beer, we’ve even looked at turning their turgid stems into twine, but I’ve not yet touched on the most famous of all nettle recipes – nettle soup!
There are hundreds of nettle recipes floating around I’m sure, but the internet is a big place and I’m, sure there is room for another….
It’s important when using nettles to only pluck away the young growth from the top of the nettle – older nettles are not nice to eat, have a very strong taste and also contain particles known as cystoliths. Cystoliths act as an irritant to the kidneys. Don’t worry if you’ve made an error once or twice – it won’t kill you, but from now on only use the new growth or very short and soft nettles as they emerge from the ground.
You’ll need to grab yourself a few other ingredients to help add some bulk to nettle soup, so grab a pen and paper or print the details below (I won’t sue you for copyright infringement for printing…. I promise).
Nettle Tops – lots of them! Enough to fill a couple of large saucepans – they almost melt like spinach.
Butter – about 60g should do it.
Onions – depending on size and taste, I’d recommend 2 or 3.
Carrot – just to satisfy the traditionalists.
Garlic – this is optional….. I prefer to use Ramsons if available.
Potato – Boil it first, this is used to give the soup some body.
Stock – you can use fish or chicken stock, or stick with veg stock (you’ll need approx. 1-litre)
Salt and Pepper – season to taste.
Cream or Yogurt – optional, particularly useful if you like a decorative swirl! Add last.
It’s all very easy really. First, wash the nettles and remove any tough stalks. Finely dice the onions and the carrot. Melt the butter gently (don’t burn it!) and sweat off the onions and carrot (and garlic if used). Once soft, add the nettles and cook gently to preserve their vibrant colour.
Whilst the nettles are cooking dice the cooked (boiled) potato. Now add the stock and potato. Simmer away until it reduces a little and everything is tender. Add your seasoning (remember, the stock is salty) and when you’re happy with the taste you need to blend it all up. I use one of the hand blenders whilst it’s in the pot to save any messing around, but be careful as they can send hot stock all over the place if you’re not careful!
Reduce a little more on a very low heat if needed and stir to avoid any catching on the bottom of the pan.
When you’re happy with it, transfer to a bowl and then add your swirl of cream, yogurt and any additional herbs that you feel will make a nice garnish.
If you feel like it, cut up a few cubes of stale bread a fry them off in some nice olive oil with wild herbs and use as croutons.
There! As simple as that….. enjoy!