Technically, this is a spring dish.
It’s a spring dish because in the spring, nettle shoots are tender and delightful. They pop up through the hardened winter earth waving their little green stingers around and every time they touch you they are saying “WAKE UP” (and they DO wake you up!). After a winter of stodgy, stick to your bones foods, spring greens are cleansing, and help your body shift from the slow pace of winter, to the “stuff to do” of spring.
Except when I went to the farmers market yesterday, there was a big big batch of nettles sitting there! Nettles go through a growing period– the greens are delicious year round in my opinion, but come late summer, they have gone to seed, as had the ones I bought at the market yesterday. The leaves were smaller, and they were covered in little bundles of fluffy green seeds.
Why on earth, I hear you ask, would you want to buy a bundle of greens that is mostly seeds.
I thought you’d never ask.
Nettle seeds are one of the BEST adrenal tonics out there. They can help to rebuild a worn out body faster than many of the fashionable herbs out there. So I picked off all the seeds that I could (note: next time I’ll use gloves because my fingers are still tingling), and then picked off all the leaves that I could. With the seeds, I ate a few, and then stored them in the fridge (I’ll dry them in a couple of days, but I LOVE them when they’re fresh and green and fluffy), with the leaves, I made soup.
Nettle soup is one of my great joys in life. It has so much complex flavour. The combination of the leeks, chicken broth, nettles, butter and cream make a delicious smooth soup that is fantastic in the spring, but also, as I found last night, great in the fall when it’s freezing outside and I’m coming down with the flu. And even better, it only takes about twenty five minutes to make.
Nettle soup. Yum.
Here you go:
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 large leek
1 large carrot (or equivalent)
4 cloves garlic
salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp herbes de provence
4 cups chicken broth (I actually use my ice-tray stock cubes, with water added, but basically you just need around that much liquid, whatever you decide to use)
1 cup nettles
Cook the leeks, carrots and garlic in the olive oil and butter over a low heat until the leeks are very soft, and the carrots are tender. Keep the heat low enough so as not to burn the garlic.
Turn up the heat a little, and sprinkle in the herbs de provence and a little salt.
Stir for around 30 seconds, until the herbs release a burst of fragrance, and then add the chicken stock.
Simmer on the stove for around 20 minutes.
Add the nettles, and simmer for another five minutes, until the leaves are cooked through.
Remove from the heat, and blend (I use an immersion blender, but you can use a food processor too) until quite smooth.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon into bowls, drizzle with cream, and sprinkle with feta.
Serve with a big crusty loaf of bread and a big chunk of butter.