Friday, 20 July 2012

Nettle Soup

This is what happens when you don't mow your back lawn in Ireland for 6 weeks; your dinner grows there.  My Awesomer Half and I picked fresh nettles growing in--yes, our back yard--and made dinner out of it.  It's ok, don't be alarmed.  Slugs don't eat this stuff unless they have a death wish.  It's actually a pretty cool example of plants trying to protect themselves.  They call these babies "Stinging Nettles" for a reason.  You definitely have to wear gloves when you pick them.

This is the stinging part.  The stems and undersides of the leaves are covered in hollow glass-like needles.  If you touch these with your bare skin it's a bit painful.  As you can see in the photo above, I'm wearing rubber washing-up gloves.

Lucky for humanity, these spines dissolve in boiling water, thus nettles can be cooked and enjoyed for their lovely herby qualities.  And qualities they have!  Ladies, do you have er... that issue every month where a certain part of you decides to make your life difficult?  Well, guess what?  Nettles can help.  "They are an excellent remedy for anaemia.  Their vitamin C content makes sure that the iron they contain is properly absorbed."  This, according to Jekka McVicar, whose recipe for Nettle Soup I have included below.

The reason why nettle soup is so good is because it is basically potato-leek soup, with some added green stuff.  Well, ok... Jekka's recipe below does actually call for onions, but really... wouldn't you rather have leeks instead?  Of course you would.

Nettle soup goes really well with Hobgoblin ruby beer.  Hobgoblin has a lovely chocolate toffee malt flavor.  It must be tasted to be appreciated.  There's no use in me describing.  Go out and buy some!  (They sell it at BevMo for you Americans reading this.)  For you atheists out there, did you know that, "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy?"  Benjamin Franklin said that.

So this is our new boat motor.  It's a Russell Hobbs.  Works great, you can really feel the suction pulling the thing down to the bottom of the pot!  OMG, this baby really gets things stirred up!  When you cook nettle soup be extra careful not to scorch the milk.  You still may find some separation of the milk fats but that issue is taken care of by a boat motor.

The Spice Tin to the rescue!  We didn't have marjoram, sage & lemon thyme as the recipe calls for, however we DID have Poultry Seasoning from those nice people in Murphy's, California.  Their poultry seasoning blend contains sage, thyme and marjoram anyway, and man was it good!  This stuff rocks.

Nettle Soup
Serves 4

250g young nettle leaves
50g oil or butter
1 small onion, chopped
250g cooked potatoes, peeled and diced
900ml milk
1 teaspoon each (mix, fresh, chopped) sweet marjoram, sage, lemon thyme
1 dessertspoon fresh chopped lovage
2 tablespoons, cream and French parsley, chopped, optional

Pick only the fresh young nettle leaves, and wear gloves to remove from stalks and wash them.  Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the chopped onions, slowly sweat them until clear.  Then add the nettles and stew gently for about a further 10 minutes.  Add the chopped potatoes, all the herbs and the milk and simmer for a further 10 minutes.  Allow to cool then put all the ingredients into a liquidizer and blend.  Return to a saucepan over gentle heat.  Add a swirl of cream to each bowl and sprinkle some chopped French parsley over the top. Serve with French bread.

From:  Jekka's Complete Herb Book, ISBN:  978 1 85626 780 9, Copyright 2007 Jekka Enterprises Ltd.  Published by The Royal Horticultural Society, revised edition


  1. So those are nettles? I am glad you didn't hurt yourself when you harvested! The soup looks amazing!

    1. We were surprised at how flavourful it was. We found it is best to use the newest growth. Most books recommend just picking the tips. I picked the tips & just a bit of the top leaves; that made it a tad fibrous. The stems have a celery-like quality. The taste is more like a cream of broccoli or cream of spinach soup.

  2. When I was little, my cousin rubbed nettles all over his face, after my dad said "don't touch these, it will hurt." Needless to say, lesson learned. I wonder if he'd feel like he was getting revenge, if he ate them.

  3. Always wanted to try some nettle soup! Looks delish.