After picking a basketful of nettle tips, cleavers and hedge mustard leaves, I decided to create a wild greens soup with them. I would also have added wild garlic and chickweed had I found some in that spot too!
The other soup base ingredients are just what I had to hand, you can vary it to what you have in your larder, eg a carrot, or even potato or rice to thicken if you prefer. I also think that adding a little fresh mint might lift it to a different dish again, plus the addition of frozen peas would be delicious I think.
It’s a versatile recipe. Make it as you will from what you can pick on the day and what you’ve got knocking about in the kitchen!
Nettle and wild greens soup
Serves: 4-6 as a starter, 2-4 as a main (with bread etc) depending how hungry you are!
A note on nettles:
Select and pick only the tips and first few leaves of the nettles, and make sure they are bright and young. Don’t pick leaves after flowering, toxins build up in nettles with age. So they are best picked in the spring or where there is new fresh growth to pick. Gloves and scissors are a simple way of picking nettles (also avoid areas when dogs might pee!)
You will need:
A basketful of nettle tips (handle with gloves until cooked)
A handful of other wild greens (eg cleavers, dandelion, hedge mustard, chickweed, wild garlic)
2 black kale leaves (or use curly, green kale or savoy cabbage)
15 sliced dried wild mushrooms (I used mixed ceps and birch boletes I’ve picked and dried myself)
1 medium or large brown onion
3 slender sticks celery (or 2 thicker ones)
2 cloves garlic (I shall substitute a bunch of wild garlic leaves next time!)
1.5 litres water for blanching
1 stock cube or jelly pot (choose type depending on your tastes or dietary requirements eg chicken, veggie, vegan, gluten-free)
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp double cream per bowl to serve (optional, omit for vegan or dairy-free)
Salt and pepper to taste
Prep your greens/remove any grass/debris (and evict any insect tenants!) and rinse in a colander. Chop the black kale leaves up to where the stalk starts thickening. Keep the thicker parts aside the stock.
Bring the water to the boil in a pan with a few grinds of salt in it. Add the greens and blanch for a minute or two until tender and softened. Strain, retaining the cooking water, and run the greens under cold water to cool and stop them cooking. This preserves the vitamins and colour. Squeeze the greens and add excess water to the blanching water. Chop to greens and keep to one side.
In the blanching pan, with the (now-green) cooking water you saved, add the dried mushroom slices and the stock cube and bring to the boil.
In a different pan, add the oil, chopped onions, kale stalks, celery and garlic and fry gently with the lid on to soften. Add a little of the stock water if starting to stick to the bottom. When the onions are translucent and the celery softened, add the hot stock from the other pan.
Take off the heat and use a stick blender to blitz the vegetables (you could also use a jug blender, this is just easier!). Now add the chopped blanched greens and blitz again. You now have your nettle soup! Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. I added a grind of black pepper to mine, but remember the stock usually has plenty of salt in plus we salted the cooking water at the start.
You can eat it just as it is, or to serve you can swirl a spoon of cream on the top – it adds a touch of luxury to the eating, plus it looks amazing!
Other ideas for toppings are sautéed sorrel flower stems, a spring or sprinkle of wild garlic flowers, primroses, red quince petals or violet flowers, fried crispy croutons. or perhaps sautéed sliced scarlet elf cups, amethyst deceivers (in summer/autumn!) or sliced pignuts… yummmm!
The colour should stay fairly vibrant on reheating (say if you froze portions and reheated) but be careful of reheating as too much or too long and the colour will dull and go murky if you’re not careful. So best prepared fresh to keep that vibrancy and for it to look its best for your diners!
Enjoy! And do tell me how you get on if you try this out for yourself! x