The nettle patches around here are in fine form at the moment. For the past week or so, I’ve been telling myself off for not carrying rubber gloves and a large plastic bag when I go for a dog walk. Finally, I remembered to do it yesterday and picked myself a bagful of bright green, vibrant nettle tips.
The nettles take the place of basil and I’ve replaced the more traditional pine nuts with walnuts.
The taste and smell is much earthier than traditional pesto but can be used in exactly the same way. It’s a very versatile store cupboard ingredient. I like it with an extra glug of olive oil and mixed through plain spaghetti then finished with a spoonful of grated Parmesan. I also like adding a few small dollops of pesto to the top of a pizza before putting into in the oven. Justin thinks it’s great with roasted or pan fried meats too – and has just made chicken breast wrapped in smoked ham and filled with nettle pesto butter for this evening’s meal.
- 60g/2oz butter, cut into cubes, plus extra for greasing
- 150ml/5fl oz water
- 75g/2½oz plain flour
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 300ml/10fl oz whipping cream
- 100g/3½oz plain dark chocolate
- 100ml/3½ fl oz double cream
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC (fan 200ºC)/425ºF/Gas mark 7
- Grease a large baking sheet and sprinkle with water
- Put the butter in a heavy-based saucepan with the water and heat until the butter melts. Bring to the boil
- Remove from the heat and add the flour and a pinch of salt. Stir vigorously
- When a smooth paste develops, return the pan to the heat, stirring. The mixture will dry out a little and form a soft ball that comes away from the sides of the pan
- Remove the pan from the heat again, leave the mixture to cool slightly, then gradually add the eggs, beating really well between each addition until the mixture is smooth and glossy
- Dollop tablespoons of the mixture onto the baking sheet leaving room between each for them to spread a bit
- Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 190ºC (fan 170ºC)/375ºF/Gas mark 5 and bake for a further 20 minutes
- Transfer the profiteroles to a wire rack to cool completely. Once they've cooled, pierce the base of each to the diameter of your narrowest piping nozzle. If you don't have a piping bag & nozzle, slice each profiterole in half horizontally
- Whip the whipping cream until firm, put into a piping bag fitted with a round, narrow nozzle and pipe it into the hole in the bottom of each profiterole. If you don't have a piping bag & nozzle, spoon a dollop on to the bottom half of each profiterole before replacing the top
- Put the chocolate and double cream into a heatproof bowl and set it over a pan of gently simmering water, stirring until smooth and shiny
- Remove the bowl from the pan and leave the sauce at room temperature for about 30 minutes, or until it is cool and thick enough to coat the profiteroles without dripping down the sides
- Carefully dip the top of each profiterole into the chocolate sauce
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
Whilst we were out walking this Easter weekend we came across a patch of lovely young stinging nettles…
…ideal for making our first nettle soup of the year. Fortunately we had the forethought to take some gloves and a carrier bag with us.
It was delicious with crusty bread!
Here’s our simple recipe if you’d like to try it out for yourself:
• 1 medium onion
• couple of sticks of celery
• 1 small leek
• 1 tablespoons vegetable oil
• 1 large knob of butter
• 1 vegetable stock cubes
• 4 pints of water
• 4 medium potatoes peeled & chopped
• large bowl/standard-sized plastic carrier bag-full of nettle leaves (only use tips & young leaves)
1. Roughly chop onion, celery & leek
2. Put in large, thick-bottomed saucepan
3. Sweat over gentle heat in vegetable oil & butter for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
4. Add water & potatoes to the saucepan
5. Crumble stock cube into saucepan
6. Bring to the boil & simmer for ½ hour
7. Add nettle leaves & simmer for a further 20 minutes
8. Blend & pass through a sieve
9. Season with salt & black pepper to taste
10. Add a splash of cream to finish (optional)
Will Forage for Soup: Gourmet Soups from Wild Greens is a foraging experience and how-to cookbook rolled into one. This digital book includes:
* The most common greens for foraging, their flavour and resources on where to find them.
* How to clean greens for soup.
* Preserving your bounty in the freezer with very little space required.
* Combining greens in soup for best flavour.
* Blanching versus boiling your greens – nutritional considerations.
* How to make a nutritious and flavourful soup base with vegetarian options.
* Tips for bringing out the flavour in your soup’s seasonings.
* A resource on spices so that you can create your own signature soup.
* Six recipes using common foraged greens.