Make sure you pretend to your children it stings when you take your first sip of nettle soup!
After a long winter of relentless storms, wind, rain and chill, yet bizarrely no snow or proper cold, it finally feels as if spring has tiptoed in. And yet instead of celebrating the warm rays and lambing as we usually do, we’re facing the greatest challenge as a country that many of us have ever lived through since wartime.
Under a new government directive to stay at home and lock ourselves down, we’re all adapting differently to that challenge. Revisiting forgotten hobbies and crafts. Picking up books we didn’t have time for. Learning new skills. For parents we’re delving into a whole new world of home-schooling and hoping we’re doing a good enough job at playing teacher. And for those of us lucky enough to have some outside space, we’re spending time in the garden: playing, planting seeds and creating, while for those without the luxury of garden, it’s the next best thing – fresh air and walks through lesser trodden fields or a daily walk or run along the streets. One way or another, keeping busy and active is going to be imperative to keeping positive – most especially if space isn’t abundant wherever you are.
As such there’s one thing most of us are feeling compelled to do more of, whether you’ve done much of it before or not: cooking. With shelves stripped clean and the ingredients we’ve presumptuously come to assume will be ready and waiting, even those of us in the habit of cooking daily are having to think a little more creatively. And alongside the environmental benefits already realised by the immediate global stoppage, I’m hoping, if little else, with families at home together and time abundant, there’ll be a return to the joys of a simper, slower life. More interest in nature. More interest in creating. More interest in cooking.
Luckily with the onset of spring, there’s one ingredient many of us (even those in cities if you search in the right places) have right on our doorstep or not far off it. Usually considered one of nature’s most annoying pests and a nuisance, nettles are in fact a lesser known superfood – packed full of nutrients and a rival even to the crowned broccoli, they’re known to reduce inflammation, hay fever symptoms, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
So grab your secateurs, take some decent gloves and hunt out your nearest stingers. Cut away the top two inches of eat plant, the younger the better it tastes. Aim to fill a couple of baskets if you can. Get the kids involved if you’ve got little ones – just be sure to get them gloved up. Pick the leaves, wash and then your ready to begin cooking your nettle soup.
If nettle soup feels a little adventurous, try nettle tea. Steep a handful of leaves in boiling water for a few minutes, strain and add a splash of sweetness.
what you’ll need
Equipment: large saucepan with a lid. Blender.
stinging nettle soup: serves 4
- 20g butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed and diced
- 1 large leek or 2 small leeks, sliced into rounds
- 250g potatoes, cut into 2cm chunks
- 200g stinging nettles, washed with leaves picked
- 800g vegetable stock
- optional: 100ml double cream or creme fraiche, to serve
- chives, to serve
Melt the butter over a medium heat in a large sauce pan. Throw in the onion, garlic and leeks. Season and cook for about 5 minutes with the lid on until softened and slightly translucent. Stir occasionally.
Add the potatoes and vegetable stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer for 15 minutes.
Add your nettles and simmer for 2 minutes further.
Pour everything into a blender and blend for 45 seconds on high.
Optional: pour in double cream or creme fraiche and mix through.
Season to taste and serve.4