Eating Nettles - fabulous free food!

With the lovely May weather and a slightly less frenetic pace at work of late (well, for the last 4 days anyway), I've been enjoying some longer dog walks with sights, sounds and smells of approaching summer: lawn mowers and cut grass, hawthorn blossom and the lovely bright green hedgerows.

Nettles grow everywhere on our walks so one day earlier this week I took gloves and a carrier bag and returned with some young, tender nettle leaves. I'd read that you should just pick the tips i.e. the top 4 leaves.  Apparently they're best eaten before June as they are 'supercharged with all things good' in spring and get a bit tough after that. The nettle is far superior in nutritional value to many other veg and a good source of vitamin C, iron and protein. 

First, I made nettle pesto, loosely following River Cottage's Recipe.  I didn't use nearly as much oil as Mr. F-W and used a couple of tablespoons of plain veg oil instead of rapeseed.  Instead of bread I toasted some frozen scones that were lurking in the freezer then crumbled them in.  Mine was a bit stiff but I just loosened it with some of the drained pasta-water.  I sprinkled the top of my Spaghetti with Cheddar Cheese and more toasted scone and grated a carrot for extra colour and texture.  And (of course) some hot chilli sauce!  It was delicious - and probably cost around 20p to make. It goes without saying that almost all the ingredients were Tesco Value.
Spaghetti with Nettle Pesto
Today I used the remaining 1/4 bag nettle leaves to make soup. Here's how:

Nettle Soup

Melt 2tbsp butter or olive oil in a large heavy saucepan.  Add the following and sauté until soft:
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 1/2 wilted, sad looking romaine lettuce heart from the back of the salad drawer (optional!)
Meanwhile, plunge the nettle leaves into another saucepan of boiling water for 1 minute then drain (keep the water for the soup) and plunge into iced water.  Drain again and squeeze out the liquid.

Stir in and sauté for another 5 minutes:
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
  • The blanched nettle leaves (to be honest, you could probably just put them in raw but I was a bit nervous!)
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • pinch of mace
  • pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
Add 1 litre water from the kettle, the drained nettle water and 2 veg or chicken stock cubes then simmer everything until the veg is soft, about 20 mins.  Blitz, drizzle a little olive oil on the top and  and serve with home-made bread.
Nettle Soup and Home-made Bread
I think I'll leave growing vegetables to the green fingered and just pick mine for free in the hedgerows!

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