Big apologies for the long silence but Ms’s Kale & Cocoa have been work-swamped. However, we’re coming up for air in time to make the most of my favourite foraging ingredient – the ubiquitous stinging nettle. Award winning health journalist, Susan Clark, describes the common nettle (usually thought of as a weed with a nasty sting) as ‘a hotbed of pharmacological activity’. She’s right. Nettles (at their best right now) contain just about everything including vitamins A, B, C, K, E, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium and manganese. They’re a powerful anti-inflammatory – clinically proven to help arthritis and rheumatism (you can read more here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23092723) . And they’re free. What’s not to like? More importantly, nettles are thought to contain silica, a rejuvenating substance that delays the ageing process by keeping cells healthy. A quick google will tell you all you need to know about this powerhouse of vitamins and minerals or go to www.nettlesforhealth.com for a complete list of all the nettles-and-health studies recently conducted. But I suggest you grab rubber gloves, a pair of scissors and a plastic bag and head out to the countryside while the nettles are still young and tender, avoiding areas of heavy pollution. You’re looking for the 5-6 leaves at the tip of the plant. Once cooked the sting is destroyed. But do keep your Marigolds on for the entire prep time.
I have to warn you that nettles taste very ‘green’ but all my kids (including the very, very fussy ten year old and the very fussy teenage girls) like nettles cooked in the following soup while Carnivorous Husband is rather partial to the curry below … and I’m addicted to the very versatile Green Sauce. Eat and feel the force!
LEEK AND NETTLE SOUP (SERVES 6)
- 3-4 leeks
- 3-4 potatoes
- 200 g nettle tops and stems (approximately half a plastic bag full)
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1.4 litres vegetable stock (I use Marigold powder)
Fry the leeks until soft (I use coconut oil but anything will do). Add the garlic and peeled, diced potatoes. Add the nettle tops (washed if you think they might need it … I normally just shake off any insects as I’m picking) and the hot stock and cook for 10 minutes until the potatoes are soft. Blend until smooth and serve with croutons, grated cheddar or parmesan, a swirl of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
NETTLE & PEA CURRY (SERVES 4 AS A SIDE DISH)
- 300 g nettles blanched, wrung out and chopped
- 2 onions, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 450 g potatoes cubed
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- 1 heaped tsp mustard seeds
- 1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
- I heaped tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp paprika
- 300 ml vegetable stock
- 2 handfuls frozen peas
- Coconut oil for frying (or sunflower oil or ghee)
Fry the mustard and cumin seeds in a tsp of coconut oil. After a minute or two, add the onions, garlic, potatoes and then the remainder of the spices. Then add the nettles, frozen peas and hot vegetable stock. Season and cook, covered, until the potato is soft.
Eat as it is (perhaps with a handful of prawns and a squeeze of lemon) or serve as a side dish.
GREEN SAUCE FOR FISH AND CHICKEN
This green sauce is my version of Amy Finegold’s Chimichuri sauce from her book, Super Grains and Seeds. Most of my family like it and it’s great with grilled fish or roast chicken. Moreover, it has absolutely no taste of nettles and it takes one minute to make and lasts a good week in the fridge!
Put the following ingredients in the blender – done!
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 handfuls each of fresh parsley and coriander
- 1 chopped garlic clove
- ½ red onion
- ½ cup olive oil
- Juice of half a lemon
- 100g of nettles, blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes.