As you know I am now on a very delayed two week honeymoon with Scott (we married in October) and I thought what better hands to leave my blog in than my mothers! Because I had also been to Download Festival last week I haven’t had time to schedule any new recipes from myself but I didn’t want to leave it empty for so long. When my mum showed interest in doing a guest post I suggested she took over my ‘Meat Free Monday’ posts because after all she has been the main inspiration for my love of cooking! So I hope you enjoy the posts my mum has lined up for you (I know you will as she is a fabulous cook) and I will return at the beginning of July.
Well, I landed my self in it when I suggested to Becky, in a fit of motherly helpfulness, whether I could help her out in some way during this busy period of exams, music festivals and holidays! Her face lit up and she suggested with enthusiasm that I write a guest blog!
Well, it is true, we are a family who appreciate good healthy food and when the girls were young, meal times were always a noisy occasion where we would catch up on the news of the day. Becky would sit at the breakfast bar in the kitchen while I prepared the food and listened to her bubbly chatter and this is where her interest in food began.
So now I had to think of something to write about and saw this as an opportunity to share my passion for a food not mentioned on her blog before – ‘free food’ as I call it, and primarily, the stinging nettle.
Not to be under-rated, the nettle is considered the super food of the hedgerow and makes a delicious deep green coloured soup which is easy to make.
We live in the south of France in a tranquil and very isolated spot and I would be lying if I said “Homes & Gardens” because the truth is our home is rustic & we share our space (inside the house and out) with an abundance of insects and wildlife and our garden has perhaps more nettles than most people can boast about!
We live a long way from a shop so it made sense to harvest the hedgerow greens, as the French farmers wives do, and eat them.
My first attempt at nettle soup included milk with poor result so I ditched the milk in favour for homemade stock , added more veggies and, hey ho, created this delicious soup which has wowed our many visitors and had them asking for the recipe.
The first thing when gathering nettles is to wear leather gloves – the nettle sting is really unpleasant, sometimes bringing up a blister so be warned and be prepared. Last year when weeding the border I thought I had been bitten by a snake as I had so much pain on my hand for a few days, only to realise when it happened again on my leg that these are rather feisty nettles, not to be trifled with!
So the rule is to only pick the top part of the plant, the first 4 -6 leaves which you can do by using scissors to snip it off and flick into your bowl to avoid using your hands at all (it comes with practise!). Do not pick flowering nettle tops though which they are just starting to do.
A colander full of nettle tops – I use a 5litre basin full to get a rich colour.
A large knob of butter
2 onions (medium size)
1 or 2 carrots depending on their size, chopped
2 potatoes, diced
1 chopped garlic clove
1 litre of homemade vegetable or chicken stock
A handful of flat leafed parsley (or parsley stalks kept in freezer for soups)
A grating of nutmeg to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Gently melt the butter and add the onion, carrots, potatoes and garlic clove.
Use a very gentle heat, leave to soften and ‘sweat’ for 5 to 10 minutes but stir occasionally to make sure they do not brown.
Then add the stock followed by the tub of nettles, parsley and nutmeg.
Simmer gently until the potato is cooked and then check the seasoning – add salt and pepper to taste.
Puree the soup and add a little water if it is too thick.
All you need now is some crusty bread and some friends to share it with.