It was never going to be a very productive day.
I woke up with most known muscles in my body aching from yesterday’s two hour tennis lesson and spent much of the morning lounging in the bath trying to make them feel better.
I then, unfortunately, discovered Garageband for iPad whilst I was writing a few emails and suddenly the rest of the day was gone.
Now with evening approaching I’ve been guiltily trying to make up for lost time by practising French whilst drawing up a men’s shirt block, but have just realised that I can’t work out the maths for the block whilst trying to repeat “voulez vous venir diner avec moi a la maison ce soir”.
Multitasking must not be my forte.
So I’ve taken a break to cook dinner and thought I’d write a little note about nettles.
Because there are so many of the damned things in the garden and I accidently brushed up against some last night and had a sore hand for hours and I am determined to eat them all.
Nettles are everywhere in the UK. Nothing else really hurts you here. A little like New Zealand. You can wander around most of the woods knowing that the spiders and the adders and the animals are almost huggable. But the thing interrupting the romantic idea of skipping through the countryside barefoot? Nettles.
They have been used in history to rub against the skin to create the feeling of warmth. Spartan soldiers were said to have made beds out of them.
You can make rope and fabric out of the fibre. It is the strongest plant fibre you can find. You’d need 90lbs to create a shirt, but it would definitely be a tough one.
It is great for the garden as caterpillars will eat it and leave your other plants alone and ladybugs like to nest there too.
You can also make a wonderful fertiliser out of them if you pick them and leave them to ferment in a bucket of water for a few weeks. You then simply tip all of it over the garden.
Nettle tea can be bought from the supermarket. It is better fresh though and is said to cure all sorts of ills including eczema, arthritis and asthma.
I bought rubber gloves from the supermarket and now I’m grabbing all the ones in the garden and making (what I think is the best use of nettles) nettle soup.
I don’t use measurements, so I’m not going to try, but I thought I’d pop the recipe that I’m using up here.
Firstly slice up a couple of onions and some sort of bulking out vegetable. I’ve used a parsnip. Most people use a potato. I’ve tried a broccoli which made it very…green. Pop them on a roasting tray with olive oil and sea salt in the oven until they turn a lovely brown.
Wash them and put them in a saucepan with a little water to boil. The heating of them takes away all the prickles.
When they’ve turned mushy and dark green (It won’t take long, maybe 5 minutes) strain them but keep the water in a separate container.
Mix the caramelised onions and parsnip in with the nettles. Add some cream, nutmeg and wizz with a hand blender (or pop in an actual blender if you really like washing up)
It will be thick so add the water that you cooked the nettles in and more cream until you like the consistency. Add salt and pepper and more nutmeg to taste.
I always like adding chilli flakes. I also love adding garlic to everything, but I like adding it raw. Crush garlic and then squash sea salt into it. The salt will draw out the bitterness. Stir in oil. I used two cloves of garlic in this.
If I had freshly homemade warm bread I would have drizzled some of the oil over the bread… but I’ve already eaten the entire loaf that Mrs W gave me the other day. Couldn’t be helped.
Serve, decorate, eat out of the saucepan. You’re done.
You can obviously caramelise the onions on the stove top. I think it’s easier just sticking them in the Aga and forgetting about them for a while.
I’m also thinking I’ll make one with zucchini instead of parsnip. It will be more watery so probably won’t need to add the strained water. I might add mustard seeds to the caramelised onions and then use cumin and coriander instead of the nutmeg…
There may be a slim chance of nettles becoming slightly endangered in the Suffolk area after this month…