On the first day of spring I resolved to pick wild nettles for soup. I’d read about it often enough.
Luckily I was with Chloë who pointed out we had just passed a clump of nettles. I can understand why I have never made made soup from them before. They were indistinguishable from the rest of the greenery – until I felt the familiar sting from pinching their fresh tops.
Wearing gloves, I filled a small plastic bag. Back home (see pic) I weighed the young nettles. My yield? Four ounces. Not bad for a first wild harvest
I melted organic butter (2oz) in a pan, and gently fried an organically-grown onion, sliced thinly.
Most recipes use boiled potatoes to thicken the soup, or flour. I chose protein-rich ground almonds (2oz). And why not some cooked chickpeas too?
I took the nettle tops I had washed (discarding any brown ones) to the onions softening in butter. I turned the mass of nettles over in the pan with a wooden spoon. As the green leaves touched the bottom of the pan, they felt the heat and wilted.
I added this nettle mixture to a bigger pan holding half a pint of salted water (for stock) with aforementioned almonds and chick peas, crushed .
I simmered the nettle soup for a few minutes (most of the other recipes said 10 – too long). Then, using the noisy hand-held liquidiser, I vroomed my way through the chickpeas and nettles, so they became more creamy.
The soup needed contrast so I fried sunflower seeds in a little oil, and they crisped up nicely. (Seeds whack-up a dish’s nutritional value. The next best thing to fresh, because, given the right condition (water/light), seeds can sprout new life.)
The nettles tasted amazing as if they had captured water in their strong cells and were bursting with lushness. This was wild food. It tasted different. Enlivening.