Archives for posts with tag: Nettles

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Sweet Nettle and Sorrel Custard Rough Puff Tartlets — what a mouthful for these novel, mouthful- size morsels, made from all good things… Inspired by Penelope Casas.

Crema De Espinacas en Canutillos:

“At the beginning of the [20th] century, this most unusual dessert of custard and spinach was popular in Bilbao; it continues to be featured at some of the city’s finest restaurants, either in a tart shell or as a filling for pastry horns,  It is said to be a vestige of the medieval custom of sweetening just about every kind of food imaginable….”

So wrote Penelope Casas in her truly exciting collection of regional Spanish recipes Delicioso!

Nettles are everywhere now, growing taller before our very eyes. The wonderfullest of weeds, the most delicious, nutritious and ubiquitous –why aren’t they the national food of Britain, as Frank Cook asks in this video.  Am just determined to use them as frequently and creatively as I can.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Another quick must-share, yesterday’s Nettle Sorrel Green Soup, an easy and good Sunday supper and dish to discuss in my new anti-recipe, pro-technique zeal.

And I’m now polyamorous, sharing my passion for Nettles with Sorrel, because that lemony zing on the side of the tongue is a wild and captivating sensation. Read the rest of this entry »

Just watched this video on a wonderful blog Frequent Found Growing on Disturbed Ground, which includes a verse from the Tao Te Ching that gave me goosebumps.  Frank Cook was a profound and incredibly knowledgable, powerful man, and it’s a gift of technology that he can still speak to us through it’s workings.  This is another site on which to learn about him, and revel in his life.

Gather Ye Nettle Tops While Ye May

Gather Ye Nettles While Ye May, or, if you are a Permaculture person feeling inspired by the Design Principles, “Catch and Store Energy: Make Hay While the Sun Shines.”

When you look around, especially in Britain, nettles grow wild, inspiring a thousand culinary uses as a free vegetable.   March, April, early May are the best months for gathering, before the plants grow too big and minerals crystallise in the leaves, causing potential kidney  issues.  (Of course, you can “manage” a patch to keep the tips young and soft.) There are so many things I want to cook with them, but I also have a love for nettles as a herb, and so forage as much as I can in early spring for use throughout the year.

I just go out with scissors and snip the tops into a bowl or bag.  I might use gloves if I didn’t enjoy the pleasure of the sting.  I put them in a large bowl and toss them around in the open air until they are fully dried, then they go into a jar.  Maybe there are more official ways to dry herbs; for nettles in spring, this seems to work.  (Not so for Nettle Seeds in autumn– one’s i’ve gathered have always gotten mould before being fully dry, maybe because of the moisture content.  On my to-do list to figure out.)

Nettle tea:  Here’s a list of potential health benefits.  I drink a cup of nettle tea every night before bed, because I find it delicious and relaxing.  I throw a few leaves into soup stocks.  And last year, I made some Nettle Salt, and plan more for this year.

The idea occurred to me reading the 101 Cookbooks instruction for Celery Salt .  I’d been given a load of slightly sad celery and decided to use the leaves for this. So easy– basically dry the leaves in a slow oven, crumble, and combine with an equal quantity of sea salt.  I could have added Kale, anything green really.  Vegetable Salts, why not?  The celery stems, fibrous and aged, I fermented, for a kind of soup stock– I will re-enact this for a blog at a future date.  And in fact, one could use these kind of salts in one’s lacto-fermenting; they are pretty much all-purpose, and mineral rich.

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The idea for Nettle Salt just occurred right there and then, and I made it with nettles I’d gathered and dried for tea.

Really nice at the table, but somehow especially simple and poetic on a hard boiled egg.  Or on popcorn.

So under a blue sky on this spring day,  my children happily occupied, with only a million other more important, in fact urgent, work-related tasks to accomplish, off I go to gather my nettle tops while I may, to catch and store (herbal) energy while the sun shines, from untended, abundant edges.

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Nettles: soups, tarts, omelettes, frittatas, filo pastries, ferments, Sag Paneer– a versatile substitute whenever we think spinach, for we who can’t resist the idea of abundance in the byways and neglected patches all around us, in city, suburb and country.  Through the years I’ve enjoyed nettles in my spring time cookery, the nutty perfume, the slightly exciting threat of sting.  I would call it love.

So after making a Tourte de Blette (a sweet Chard tart) from my over-wintered Bed of Chard, I determined to explore uses for greens in desserts, and with the chard still growing profusely, and nettles abounding, my odyssey began.  I’ve been seeking spinach recipes in which to substitute these.

First stop, as so often, was Jane Grigson— her Vegetable Book (1978) a deserving classic of international and historic reference really rooted in Britain but looking outward.  She is impeccable, imaginative, fun.  I love her writing.  And so to find a “Sweet Spinach Tart” (Tarte D’Epinards Au Sucre/ Tarte Aux Epinards Provencale), I felt given a proper send off…  She writes:

“Do not blench at the idea [of sweet spinach].  Take courage from the thought that [it] was a thoroughly English delicacy in the days before modern fruit storage–as one 18th-century writer remarked, ‘This is good among tarts in the winter for variety.’ Tudor recipes might include rosewater as a flavouring,but later we inclined more to the candied orange and lemon peel of this modern recipe from France.”

I gathered a big lot of nettle tips to weigh around 250grams/ 8 oz, as the recipe instructed. The instruction is to lightly steam them in the water that clings to the leaves after washing — really simple and obvious but bears emphasis, because then, if you immediately blanch (ie, cool down as quickly as possible in cold or ice water) you retain the beautiful green. Then I pureed them in the whizzer.

(This I think is a great technique for use with greens in general– especially the ones with chewier texture, like nettles.  This kind of puree would be a great ingredient in many cakes/ breads/ pancakes / shakes etc. and pestos and spreads too.)

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Grigson calls for:

250g (generous 8oz) spinach

125 ml (4 fl oz) each milk and single cream, or 250 ml milk

60g (2oz) sugar (you could use less but I reckon the point of this recipe is that it is sweet– so use honey maybe if you’re concerned about sugar?)

half vanilla pod [for a lovely custard-ness; but I used almond essence actually]

2 small egg yolks

30g (1 oz) flour ….

shortcrust pastry

candied orange and lemon peel [I used a few spoonfuls of marmalade]

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Her method involves ensuring all excess water is drained from the pureed spinach; slowly boiling the milk and cream, stirring the flour into the beaten yolks then adding them to the near-boil so everything thickens, then mixing in the spinach and placing everything into the pastry case (which I next time will bake blind). Grigson suggests serving hot or warm, with cream, which I did.  But hours later the slivers that were cold were much much creamier and nicer, and the flavours settled.

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I would call this Sweet Nettle Tart a success and gave lots of ideas for future desserts and sweet uses for nettles.

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What made me look to Claudia Roden’s epic The Book of Jewish Food I don’t know, but it is compendiously trans-cultural and anthropological, and one of the great cookbooks ever for its breadth.  It’s one to read even if not to use, but use it I find myself often doing….  In it are loads of spinach recipes for a keen substitution of nettles and chard– all now on my to-do list.

Shining most brightly: Torta di Mandorle e Spinaci — a green macaroonish “cake” with few ingredients that Roden discusses as an old Florentine curiosity, possibly with an earlier history in Provence–  and perfect now as my Torta di Mandorle e Ortica, incarnated yesterday as a Passover Dessert.  Basically, it’s pureed steamed nettles (supplemented by some chard), as above, powdered blanched almonds, sugar,  and egg yolks mixed together and folded into, therefore raised  and lightened by, hard whipped egg whites for loft.  Then baked as a cake, but could easily be made into smaller biscuit shaped pieces, perhaps in little paper cases.

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 The longer they’ve sat, the more delicious they’ve become– really quite unusual yet hard to not want to keep tasting for that allusive.. that hard to say…. that je ne sais quoi.

Please stay tuned for more green spring sweets — I have a list of ideas I’m working through.  As of this moment, I think the basic principle  I’ve learned is: lightly  steam and puree the greens then add them to whatever it is that appeals– a plain white cake, a pancake, a custard… with nettles the pureeing mitigates the stringy (ie hempy) texture…

And thanks to my friend Elli for the idea of the Galette aux Orties, an oat and nettle cake cooked in a pan and sounding especially delicious, even if in an ancient Celtic way somehow, in the French.  Could be savoury, could be sweet.  Ah, one could do a crepe, a buckwheat crepe!  The ideas spill forth….

And thanks too to the amazing Sara Stanley for imagining a carrot-nettle cake (wouldn’t it be fun placing orange and green cakes as layers — or not) and the pairing of chard and date, and nettle and chestnut.  Sara is an impressive and professional baker, teacher, forager, recipe-developer, foodie and lovely person– you can take courses with her

OK, ta ta for now.

 

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