Last Sunday we had a lovely walk in a nearby forest, where we picked some fresh young nettle. We realized it actually turned out to be our habit, as it was not the first year we did that. Well, we went nettle picking every spring for a good couple of years now. I always thought, there must be something about this nettle – even as children when we got stung while playing outdoors, we were told it is actually healing – probably not just empty words to calm us down.
Now I know for sure, and you can stay calm, too, it is perfectly alright to go nettle picking and then use it in your kitchen, too. It is a very nutritious kind of herb, full of iron and vitamin C for example, and definitely is very valuable, despite being seen as just a wild plant by many.
My habit is to go pick nettle while the herbs are fresh and young, must be before they flower. If you still are not sure, or not quite convinced as what to do with it in particular, especially if you have known it just as a plant for infusions or addition to the hair care, you can try this recipe. I think of the nettle leaves as of spinach leaves, and the idea of nice, proper home made soup sounds very tempting to me.
So, if you think you can do it after all, get ready and put on the walking boots! Well, besides kitchen, you will definitely need to go out – see, a double benefit of this idea! Wink.
Take a basket or a paper bag, where you place the cut leaves – I always use scissors, because no matter how much I love this soup, I still don’t want to get stung. You can also wear your garden gloves to do this. I don’t. I always gently snap off the top four youngest leaves, always the good healthy looking ones, which most of them are anyway. I leave those with tiny bugs alone. Smile. But still want to feel the plant, and be more natural, so don’t use the gloves.
For about 2l of soup you will need about 500g stinging nettle.
Start with finely chopped smaller onion, place it on a hot pan with 2 – 3 tbsp olive oil, then add 4 – 5 finely sliced spring onions, just for a couple of minutes till they go a bit golden, then add 1 larger diced potato and 1 diced carrot. Cook until they start to soften, then add 1.5 l vegetable stock, I use stock from a cube, and let cook till they’re almost soft – usually up to 15 mins.
Add 100 g frozen petite pois (small green peas) to add bright green colour and sweetness. When those are nearly done – and mind you, that takes really just a few minutes, add your freshly picked and well washed nettle leaves. The reason why adding them as last is simple – they don’t need a long cooking time, they go soft fast, which is also good to keep them as nutritious as possible – so, let them just simmer for a minute or two, till you actually see them wilt similar way to preparing spinach leaves.
Turn off the heat, season to taste – I use salt, freshly – ground black pepper, and if you fancy, add some mint leaves, too.
Blend till you get your preferred texture. Bring back to the heat, and add 250 ml semi – skimmed milk, and 150 ml single cream, bring to simmer again, and if you like, add more cream.
I use cream when I serve the soup, so don’t need to add that much single cream. Give the soup a stir, let cool a bit and serve. Last time we tried it with dry pan fried diced pancetta and loved it that way – the saltiness of the meat complemented the mellow soup perfectly, but you can also have it with a few fresh young mint leaves, it is also nice. Don’t forget some crunchy toasted bread – and you will love your spring lunch or light dinner soup!
This soup is fun making because you need to go pick your own leaves that you choose one by one while enjoying the sunshine, but also a simple dish to prepare, and you know, it is really good – we love its earthy, mineral, sort of rustic taste, and uneven texture.. it is a very pleasant thing to do as a whole every spring! Or more often, wink 😉