Wednesday, 22 May 2013

stinging nettles


This herbaceous perennial plant is best known for its irritating qualities. Little do we know about its health and beauty benefits and less about its exquisite properties as a culinary ingredient which lends beautifully to spring soups, pestos, purées, sautéed greens,ravioli filling, and even beer! 

Thankfully, this burning beauty is undergoing a renaissance in places like Dorset, England where TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, an avid enthusiast of all things nettle, whips up numerous delights in his River Cottage kitchen.

Though widely consumed throughout many parts of the world at one time, stinging nettles seemed to have all but disappeared from most kitchens in more recent times. Naturally, something this good has not gone completely underground. In some countries the love affair is still burning hot. 

So my dear readers, take a good look at this specimen and come Spring go out into a woods somewhere, a farm, or even a park, and track these suckers down because you will be better for it.

Picking stinging nettles 101

More stinging nettle recipes from my blog via New Zealand: 

My harvested and cleaned  nettles
SHORT CRUST PASTRY BASE: (makes two 12'' quiches)

200 g butter (cold and cubed)
400 g regular flour
pinch salt 
100 ml cold water

1.       In a food processor pulse butter, flour, and salt, until pastry begins to clump together (aim for the texture of moist sand)
2.       In a cold bowl, pour in the contents of food processor, form a well in middle, then pour in water and mix gradually by hand until it begins to come together
3.       On a flour-dusted surface, transfer pastry mixture for light kneading, ultimately forming a ball (don't overwork it)
4.       Cut ball in half and re-form both halves into balls, then flatten into a disc with palm

5.       Wrap each disc in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (you may store the other one in the freezer for later use)


2 tsp butter (plus extra if needed)
100 g diced smoked bacon or pancetta
3 large handfuls of stinging nettle leaves (washed and briefly blanched in salted water)
1/3 of onion or a whole shallot (finely chopped)
3 eggs 
200 g heavy cream or creme fraiche
1/3 cup of grated cheese like Gruyere or Edam
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
1.       Preheat oven to 360 F
2.       In a pan, melt butter, brown the cubed bacon til crisp, the set bacon aside 
3.       Meanwhile, use a paper towel to smear some of the remaining bacon fat from the pan onto the bottom and sides of your quiche form
4.       Back in the same pan, sauté onions in remaining fat until translucent 
5.       Add the blanched and drained nettles to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes
or until tender (you can add more butter or oil to the pan if needed). Set sautéed nettles aside.
6.       Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, making sure it is large enough to      
cover the entire diameter and sides of the greased form, pushing the pastry against edge of the pan
7.       Prick holes all over the bottom of the pastry with a fork
8.       Distribute the cooked bacon along with its oil over the surface of your pastry
9.       Distribute cooked onion and nettle mixture evenly over the bacon
10.    In bowl whisk eggs, cream, nutmeg, and grated cheese 
11.    Pour the custard over the bacon and nettles
12.    You may grate some extra cheese on top if you like, then place in center of the oven to bake for 45-50 minutes at about 190C/380F
13.    Let rest on cooling rack

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