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.
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.