I was out for an evening constitutional (okay, I was plinking cans with my slingshot
) and noticed that the nettles were really thick. Has anyone got the Wild Food Year Book
or anything like it? I'm always late with my foraging...
Time for some nettle recipes! The fancy ones are from Hugh Fearnley Eatsitall...
This is apparently Britain's oldest dish, 8000 years old. I wonder how they worked that out..?
1 bunch of sorrel
1 bunch of watercress
1 bunch of dandelion leaves
2 bunches of young nettle leaves
1 cup of barley flour
1 teaspoon salt
Chop the herbs finely and mix in the barley flour and salt. Add enough water to bind it together and place in the centre of a linen or muslin cloth. Tie the cloth securely and add to a pot of simmering venison or wild boar (a pork joint will do just as well). Leave in the pot until the meat is cooked and serve with chunks of bread.
Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup
1 wicker basket full of young nettle tops (wash well)
1 large leek (roughly chopped)
2 medium-sized onions (roughly chopped)
2 very large potatoes (peeled and chopped quite small)
1-2 cloves of garlic (chopped/crushed)
vegetable stock to taste (cube/powder, etc)
3 pints water
2.5 pints milk
4 bunches (of approx 50g) wild garlic (Allium ursinum) (finely chopped)
a little olive oil
cream (single or double)
salt and pepper
a few garlic mustard leaves for garnish (Alliaria petiolata)
Place all ingredients in a large saucepan except the cream, wild garlic and one pint of the milk. Bring to the boil and simmer for about half an hour, then liquidise. Also, liquidise the remaining pint of milk with the chopped wild garlic. Swirl some of this and a little cream into the soup once you have put it in a bowl. Garnish with a couple of garlic mustard leaves.
White bean and nettle soup
The sort of thick, hearty, stewy soup that's barely a soup at all. It's an excellent use for those cans of white beans you've got knocking about in the cupboard, and the perfect way to showcase the year's first nettle haul. If you also manage to forage some wild chives (essentially garden chives that have escaped their domestic confines), they make a delicious finishing touch. Serves four.
About 200g fresh young nettle tops (ie, four big handfuls)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 fat cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 x 410g cans white beans, such as cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
175-250ml light vegetable or chicken stock
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Very good extra-virgin olive oil
Wild chives (optional)
Wash the nettle tops well, put them into a pan, along with the water that is still clinging to them, and place over a medium heat until wilted (about five minutes). Drain, squeeze out any excess water and chop roughly.
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a low heat. Add the garlic and cook very gently for a minute or two, taking care that it doesn't colour. Add the beans and stock, and bring to a simmer for five minutes or so. Scoop out around half the beans and liquid, and process in a blender to create a rough purée. Return the puréed beans to the pan, stir with a wooden spoon, roughly crushing the whole beans as you do so. Stir in the nettles. Taste, season generously and bring back to a simmer. You can add a little more stock if you like, but this is meant to be a very thick, coarse soup.
Spoon into shallow bowls, swirl a generous amount of your very best extra-virgin olive oil over the top and finish, if you like, with a scattering of snipped wild chives. Serve straight away, with chunks of rustic bread.
Ricotta and nettle gnocchi
A variation on gnocchi verde, which is traditionally made with spinach. You can, of course, use spinach instead of nettles, when the bloody stuff finally comes up. Serves six.
½-1 carrier bag full of young nettle tops (around 250-300g when cooked and squeezed dry)
50g butter, melted, plus a little extra for serving
200g ricotta cheese
100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
3 egg yolks
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
150g Parmesan, grated, plus a little extra, for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Wash the nettles well, transfer to a big pan, along with the water that's still clinging to them, then wilt over a medium heat for about five minutes, until tender. Leave to cool a little, then squeeze as dry as you can. Weigh out 250-300g of squeezed nettles, chop finely, then put in a bowl. Add the melted butter and mix together.
In a large bowl, lightly beat the ricotta with a fork, then sift in the flour. Add the egg yolks, nutmeg, Parmesan and the cooled, buttered nettles and mix well (do not over-mix: it's nice to have a textured mixture, rather than a homogenised paste). Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper only if required, then chill for at least an hour, until stiff.
Lightly dust a baking tray with plain flour. Using two dessertspoons, mould the mixture into gnocchi - that is, take a small amount in one spoon and then scrape it off with the other spoon. Repeat this a few times, passing the mixture between the two spoons. Once you have the knack, you will be able to make little rugby ball shapes. The gnocchi should be all the same size, about 2cm in diameter. Place on the floured baking tray. (At this stage, they can be covered in clingfilm and left in the fridge for up to 24 hours if necessary.)
Bring a large pan of water to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Gently place the gnocchi in the water in batches of six or seven - it is important not to overcrowd the pan - and cook gently for five to six minutes. By this time they should all have floated back up to the surface. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain off excess water. Toss in melted butter and serve immediately, with extra Parmesan.
* 4 Medium sized leeks and/or 1 - 3 onions
* 1-6 Cloves of garlic depending on preference
* About a two dozen nettle tops or young nettles (or more) pureed (partially cooked for about 5-10 mins and chopped)
* A large bowl of partially cooked oatmeal - This will determine the size of the haggis
* Sage, Thyme, Black-pepper to taste
* Chopped Fried bacon
Mix all the ingredients together and pack into a muslin bag or clean tea towel and tie the ends. Boil for about an hour and serve with gravy. This recipe is adapted from Richard Mabey's, 'food for free'. I have cooked this without the bacon using a tea towel. The end result was slightly sloppy but after placing in the fridge overnight it became a lot more solid and was very tasty (before and after). If you're going to omit the bacon you may want to add some butter or margarine, or even some fried aubergine .
Risotto of nettles and wild herbs
30-40 nettle tops
plus some of the following (or use garden herbs such as parsley, tarragon and chives):
small bunch wild chervil
small bunch wild chives
small bunch yellow rocket leaves
few wild garlic leaves
1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped very finely
200g/7oz arborio rice
500ml/17fl oz chicken, veal or vegetable stock
1 wine glass white wine
salt and black pepper
1. Blanch the nettles in boiling water for two minutes, then drain, squeeze dry, and chop finely. Wash and finely chop the other hedgerow herbs.
2. Bring the stock to simmering point on a low heat. In a separate, fairly heavy-based saucepan sweat the onion or shallot in the butter for a few minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and cook for a further few minutes.
3. Add a ladle of the hot stock and allow to come to a gentle simmer. Cook the rice until almost all the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally to make sure the risotto does not catch on the bottom of the pan.
4. Continue to add the liquid by degrees, incorporating the wine towards the end of the cooking, until the liquid is all absorbed, the risotto is creamy, and the individual rice grains tender with just a hint of chalkiness in the middle.
5. Stir the chopped nettles and herbs into the risotto, which should become a beautiful pale green, flecked with tiny pieces of herb. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
6. The risotto should be served not piping hot, but tiede, with a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs and a trickle of olive oil on each portion. parmesan cheese is not required.
Cornish nettle soup:
This really is a delicious soup. It is obviously very inexpensive and was always prepared as a spring tonic. Nettles are high in vitamin C and iron.
2lb young nettle tips
1 1/2 pints chicken stock or vegetable stock
4 cold cooked sausages
3 tablespoons soured cream
3 tablespoons flour
(see measure conversions for more information)
- Use gloves to gather young nettles.
- Wash the nettles and blanch with boiling water.
- Wash the spinach and add to the nettles.
- Pour the hot stock over the nettles and spinach in a saucepan.
- Season and simmer for three quarters of an hour, adding more stock if needed.
- Leave soup to cool and blend in blender.
- Mix the flour to a smooth paste with some cold milk.
- Add this to the soup and bring back to the boil, stirring all the time.
- Chop the sausages into small rounds and add to the soup.
- Swirl in the sour cream just before serving.
Yay, beer! A traditional beer that is well worth trying. Use only young nettles and use thick gardening gloves when picking them to avoid stings! Remember to shake off any bugs etc. before using the leaves.
2lb young nettle tops, washed thoroughly
1 gallon of water
1 cup of sugar
small piece of toast
enough fresh yeast to spread on the toast
1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
(see measure conversions for more information)
- Boil the nettle tops in the water for half an hour.
- Strain and add sugar, stirring to dissolve.
- Also stir in the ginger. Pour mixture into a sterile container.
- Spread the yeast onto the toast and float on the surface of the nettle liquid.
- Cover and leave for 3 days.
- Strain again and put into clean, strong screw top beer bottles.
- This can be drunk after 48 hours.