Thursday, 5 May 2011

Stinging Nettles

Nettle Soup with Créme Fraiche

Ingredients for 4:

1/2 Diced white onion
1 Minced garlic clove
130gm Peeled and diced potato
400ml Water or vegetable stock
200gm Nettles (Tops and young leaves preferable, not too stalky.)
40gm Butter
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Créme fraiche


1) Melt half the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
2) Add the diced onion, garlic, salt and pepper and cook gently until softened.
3) Add the water and bring to a boil.
4) Add the potato and nutmeg and simmer until fully cooked.
5) Pour into a blender and add the nettles and spinach a bit at a time, pushing down into the hot   liquid with a spoon.
6) Blitz on high for two minutes, drop the remaining butter in and blend for another minute.
7) Check the seasoning.

To serve:

Ladle into four bowls and top with a spoonful, (or a one-handed quenelle) of créme fraiche.  Serve with crusty bread and a crisp, dry white wine.

-Jon Slack, nettle eater extraordinaire
 “I must be an idiot. My goal is to eat 12 feet of nettles, but I draw the line at eating my own vomit.”
On nettles:

Nettles can be used much the same as spinach.  When cooked they lose their infamous sting.  When picking, use gloves or grasp them very quickly, the stinging hairs are very delicate and won't hurt you if tackled hard.  Nettles are considered by some to be a super food and contain vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, manganese and calcium.  Evidence supports them to be an aid for all manner of ailments such as arthritis, kidney problems, anemia and hay fever.  You will find nettles to be a fairly common ingredient in shampoo as they are known to help control dandruff and impart a glossy sheen.  Hence the old tradition of farmers adding the abundant weed in with the animal feed.  Cornish Yarg cheese is wrapped in nettles and Hugh's tipple 'Stinger' is a competent ale.  An annual Stinging Nettle Eating Championship, (where I lifted a couple of these pics...) is held in Dorset where competitors strip and eat raw leaves in a fixed time trial.  Nettles are everywhere.  As soon as the winter chill lifts the plant goes mad till next winter.  I challenge anyone to go for a walk in the West Country and not come across heaps of nettles.  Free food people, get picking.  Stick to the young tops high up...dogs also like a good walk.

On créme fraiche:

Unsurprisingly a French product.  A soured cream containing around 30% butterfat.  It is quite easy to make your own by adding a little buttermilk to double cream in a bowl and letting it sit for several hours at room temperature.  The bacteria will take hold, thicken and sour your cream.  The only real difference between actual 'sour cream' and creme fraiche is that the former contains less fat and is a little more sour.  Fab as a finisher for many sauces.  Avoid the low fat alternative if heating as it will curdle.  I realize Heinz beans are the favoured topping for baked potatoes around these parts, but you lot have obviously not savoured créme fraiche, butter, black pepper and chives on your crisp skinned spud.  Put down that tin opener and go for the gold.

Parting shot:
'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.'
-Old English rhyme

Cornish Yarg Cheese

1 comment:

  1. Clare (Dom's Mum)23 August 2011 at 06:31

    Brings back memories of being offered Nettle Soup for the first time at the Houston House near Edinburgh many many years ago. Another first for me that evening was a white Chateauneuf-du-Pape.