Foraging season is upon us again. A fortnight ago I made a batch of wild garlic butter.
This week, the stinging nettles are just right for picking. We had a patch in a corner of our allotment that was looking lush and healthy. It’s now had a little pruning session – and is the star ingredient in a nettle loaf.
Don’t forget, if you’re going to try this recipe, take a pair of gloves and only pick the tips and first two leaves – much like tea-picking, I reckon!
The nettles make for a rustic, flavoursome and attractive loaf.
I’ve used a basic white loaf recipe; but a half & half mixture of white and wholemeal will enhance the earthy, nutty flavour of the nettles. And nettles are SO good for you
- 5g/⅙oz active dried yeast
- 300ml/10.5 fl oz warm water
- 500g/18oz plain flour
- 10g/⅓oz salt
- handful of nettle leaves
- Add the yeast to the water and stir to remove any lumps. Add a teaspoon of sugar (optional) to help it along if the yeast is a bit old. Set aside for 15 minutes until it forms a foam
- In a colander, rinse & drain the nettle leaves removing any thick stalks. Set aside 4 or 5 of the leaves before roughly ripping the remainder
- Add the flour to a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle
- Pour the yeast liquid into the well in the flour
- Bring the flour into the centre and combine
- Add the salt to the dough and knead to form a ball
- On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough for 10-15 minutes
- Put the dough back into the bowl, cover with clingfilm and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size (about an hour)
- Lay the reserved nettle leaves, smooth side down, into a well-floured banneton if you have one. If not, lay them into a well-greased loaf tin
- Once proved, empty the dough out on to a lightly floured work surface and knead in the nettles (this is best done wearing a pair of clean rubber gloves)
- Form the dough into a ball and place into the banneton (or oblong if using a loaf tin)
- Put the banneton/loaf tin into the large mixing bowl and cover with clingfilm and leave to prove, again until doubled in size, in a warm place
- Preheat the oven to 240ºC/465ºF/Gas mark 9, put an empty roasting dish on the bottom shelf of the oven and fill a cup with cold water and set aside
- Once the loaf has risen, if using a banneton, grease a baking sheet and gently decant the loaf on to it, trying not to knock any air out of it
- Quickly & carefully pour the cup of water into the roasting dish before putting the loaf into the oven
- After 10 minutes, turn the oven down to 200ºC/ 400ºF/Gas mark 6
- Bake for a further 20-25 minutes before taking it out of the oven
- Leave to cool on a wire rack for at least half an hour before use