Nettle Soup; So Good it Hurts!

It’s been a perfect Easter holiday of contrasts; Good Friday was sunshine and daffodils while today I’ve just come in from a fell run in horizontal hail and near freezing temperatures!

Friday gave me a day of Spring gardening and right on cue, nettles started appearing for the first nettle soup of the year!

A photograph of fresh homegrown vegetables.

Nettle soup is perfect for this time of year. Those first nettle leaves are packed full of availableiron and, cooked up, can make a warming soup which is a perfect end of Winter tonic.

Here’s a recipe for the soup that I made;

First of all put some gloves on. Unless you’re really fearless, even those first nettle leaves will sting! After the nettles are cooked they don’t sting! I just couldn’t resist the title for my post!
I just pick the tip of the nettle which has four or five little leaves attached.

I have lots of nettles (!). I try to leave a border of a metre or so untouched right round my garden. This looks lovely at this time of year, covered in snow drops and daffodils. In a month or two’s time it will invariably have turned into an impenetrable jungle of towering nettles and dock leaves!

I console myself that at least five of our native butterflies lay their eggs on nettles; the painted lady, red admiral, small tortoiseshell, peacock and comma. Not the cabbage white though of course; that flies straight for my brassicas with an admiring glance at my nasturtiums on the way!

So, having so many nettles I can easily pick a lot! I added other greens and herbs that I found in the garden to make a total of about a carrier bag full.  I’ve still got some onions in the green house, and garlic so I used lots of these too. Here’s what I did;

In a big saucepan heat up some;
coconut oil (about a biggish desert spoon full). I used a bit of butter too for the taste but you could leave it out to make this dairy free.
3 big onions, chopped up
fry slowly with stirring from time to time to really get the full, soft flavour.
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 big garlic cloves, peeled and crushed

Put the lid on and sweat for ten or fifteen mins until the seat potato is starting to soften. shake or stir occasionally so it doesn’t burn. If it’s catching add a bit of water.

next add
6 cups of nettles
8 cups of brussels sprout plant tops (you could use kale or chard or spinach or spring teens instead)
2 cups of sorrel (you could replace with spinach, celery or chard)
2 cups of chard (you could use spinach)
2 cups of mixed mint, oregano and sage (I’m not sure I’d use sage again but the mint works really well. You could use parsley too especially flat leaf and some celery)
You could add some fresh ginger and/or chilli if you wanted to make the soup really warming. I just added a teaspoon of rose harrisa to my bowl of soup at the end.
sweat it all with the lid on for another ten mins
then add

1 Litre of good stock ( I use marigold)
a good grind of black pepper
Bring to the boil and simmer for ten mins

Whizz it up (I usually like chunky soup but this really is better whizzed-perhaps it’s the thought of the nettles!)
Serve with grated cheese or a dollop of creme fraiche. I also added a teaspoon of rose harrisa to mine to heat it up more.

I love rose harrisa! I used to buy a ruck sack full every year the Saturday before Christmas from Borough Market in London, and bring it back on the train, leaking everywhere! I’ve just found that Booths sell it in little jars but it’s not quite as rose flavoured. One day I’ll have a go at making my own if only for the pleasure of picking all those rose petals!

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