Tuesday, August 28, 2007

N is for Nettles


Tender-handed stroke a nettle,
And it stings you for your pains;
Grasp it like a man of mettle,
And it soft as silk remains.

Moving on to N means moving on to nettles. We went nettle-picking armed with a verse, a pair of gardening gloves and a Grandpa. London nettles come ready-dressed with diesel dust and dog pee so we needed to find some cleaner country nettles. From his home in Oxfordshire, Grandpa carried out a reconnaissance trip, locating a clump of nettles where no weed killer had been used. He explained to Freddie and Alex that the best time to pick nettles was in early spring and you have to pick the smallest, most tender top shoots. They put on their gloves and ankle-protecting boots and grasped the nettle literally and metaphorically.

Nettles, like the pungent horseradish root require some form of body protection to prepare. Cooking in gloves was challenging. I picked through the nettles, threw away other weeds, caterpillars and bugs and made nettle soup. Cooking the nettles removes the sting, which was Freddie’s greatest fear. We all sat in Grandma and Grandpa’s garden sipping on our soup. Alex thought it was delicious. Freddie gave it 8 out of 10 but was convinced his lips were stinging.

Nettle Soup

450g potatoes
250g young nettle leaves
50g salted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
900ml chicken or vegetable stock
4 tbsp crème fraiche or double cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Handful of chopped chives to decorate

Peel the potatoes, dice them and then parboil them for ten minutes. Drain. Wash and roughly chop the nettles. Throw away any tough stalks. In a large pan, melt the butter and sauté the chopped onions, garlic, apple and nettles for 10 minutes on a gentle heat. Add the potatoes and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to the boil. Then lower heat and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Take off heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the crème fraiche and a little seasoning of salt and pepper. Liquidise the soup in a blender and serve with a few chopped chives.
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  1. Now you're moving into extreme-veg! So impressed Freddie gave this 8 well deserved points. Nettle soup is such a surprisingly good flavour - guests never guess what it is and are mildly shocked when the realise what they've just enjoyed!
    Tot tip form Hugh Fearnley–Whittingstall - instead of using potatoes for thickening, crumble some rice-cakes into the soup just before liquidising.


  2. Thanks for that tip. I will try that next time.
    I think this comes in the category of brave tasting...

  3. Charlotte, what a beautiful soup. The chives are such a great touch. But I can't tell you how much courage I have to muster when I eat nettles - the searing childhood sting is too deeply embedded in my psyche! I give Freddie and Alex both a 10 out of 10 for nerve.

  4. I think the only time I have seen nettles is in the health food store in pill form! Not sure where I would find them here in Key West. But...the soup looks yummy! Great photos of grandpa and Freddie!

  5. Hiya

    I love nettles. Let me know if you are nettle recipe-a-plenty - if not, I can send one over.

    All the best

  6. Figs,Olives,Wine.
    It is a matter of mind over matter...I dont think we are going to eat nettles regularly but we are certainly in the mood to try them out at the moment.

    David - Yes please. I wouldnt mind some inspiration of some sorts...
    any ideas? I have made a tortilla today but wouldnt mind a risotto or something similar...


  7. Hi Charlotte, I thought you might be interested to know that there is a be nice to nettles week and a website with lots of info, activities and recipes. http://www.nettles.org.uk/
    I first learnt about this site from Joanna at Joannasfood.
    Hope you find this interesting.
    Sara from farmingfriends

  8. Thanks so much Sara
    I will check it out.
    Nettles have their own site!

  9. Charlotte! I know understand what my mom meant when my sister, brother or I would be fidgeting and she'd say: "Do you all have stinging nettles?!" (lol)


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