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soup recipe

Food & Drink

Nettle Soup Recipe

May 12, 2019

Nettle Soup Recipe

Nettle Soup Recipe

If there’s one wild plant many would recognise it has to be the nettle, also known as stinging nettle, burn nettle, or botanically as Urtica dioica. With its soft green leaves and tiny stinging hairs that break off and release acid into the skin, nettles are difficult to avoid in gardens and the countryside.

Nettle Soup RecipeI’ve never forgotten my first nettle rash having fallen in a patch aged around 6 years old while I was playing in a nearby field; the searing pain! I didn’t think it would stop until Mum rubbed a dock leaf together in the palm of her hand, releasing juice that soothed my tormented skin. It didn’t occur to me that I’d be eating stinging nettle soup years later, made from the serrated, tender, young leaves of the nettle plant.

Multi-Use Nettles

Nettle Soup RecipeWith records dating back to the bronze age, nettles have been used in the textile and culinary worlds, as well as medicinally thanks to the plant’s powerful therapeutic applications. Back in pre-pharmaceutical days when herbs and plants were used to treat ailments, stinging nettles were used for internal haemorrhaging, as a diuretic, for jaundice, a laxative and dermatological problems including eczema. They were also used in the cloth and paper making industries up to the 12th century, and cultivated in Scandinavia and Scotland.

If you have nettles in your garden, be sure to leave a patch for the wildlife too. They provide habitats for butterflies and moths, particularly when the plants are flowering, as well as insect eating mammals such as hedgehogs, frogs and toads.

These days when I’m working with groups, I often extol the virtues of homemade fertilisers and provide a nettle tea recipe. During these sessions, older people have regaled us with childhood memories of their mammies using nettles as tonics during the early springtime, washing their family’s hair with nettle rinses or conjuring up various nettle recipes to cleanse ‘their insides’ after long, damp winters.

According to 1600’s herbalist Nicholas Culpeper “…the decoction of the leaves… or the seed… kills the worms in children, eases pain in the sides and dissolves the windiness in the spleen. The juice of the leaves, or the doctation of them, or of the root, is singularly good to wash either old, rotten, or stinking sores or fistulas and gangrenes, and such as fretting, eating or corroding, scabs, mangeness, and itch in any part of the body, as also green wounds, by washing them therewith, or applying the green herb bruised thereunto, yea, although the flesh were separated from the bones…” apparently they can be hung up to dissuade fleas from entering the home too. It might be an idea to seek an herbalist or GP rather then self-treating at home if you’ve a fistula that needs treating.

Unable to share any medicinal recipes for nettles, I can share a culinary one that we often cook at home. It’s practically free to produce so great for large crowds, contains various amounts of Vitamins A and C, as well as mineral salts including calcium, potassium, silicon, iron, manganese and sulphur.

Nettle Soup Recipe

Nettle Soup Recipe

The trickiest part of this recipe is collecting the nettles before they flower. From my experience, this is when they are at their stingiest, but that’s easily solved with a pair of long cuffed heavy duty or rubber gloves. If you’re collecting them from the wild, be careful to avoid any that might have been sprayed with herbicides and don’t use nettles that are flowering. According to Rachel Lambert, at that stage they produce microscopic rods of calcium carbonate that can interfere with kidney function.

Once picked and plunged into the hot stock, nettles lose their sting and the subsequent nettle soup only takes half an hour to prepare and cook. This lower fat recipe, where the original cream and butter have been swapped, has been inspired by our trusty New Covent Garden Food Co Book of Soups. It will provide enough nettle soup for six hungry mouths; simply double up for an inexpensive meal for a crowd.

Ingredients

25g (1oz) Sunflower oil
A finely chopped onion
400g (14oz) finely chopped and peeled potatoes
450g (1lb) freshly picked, young nettle tops
1 litre (1¾) vegetable stock
*1 tablespoon (19g) cornflower mixed with 120ml milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Variations

*The full fat version uses butter instead of olive oil and double cream instead of the cornflower mix. A vegan alternative is to mix soy milk with olive oil. Simply combine 159ml soy milk with 79ml olive oil to make 237ml.

Method

  • Cook garlic and onions gently in a covered pan without colouring.
  • Add the potatoes and nettles to the pan and cook for another two minutes or so.
  • Add the stock to the mix, pop on the lid, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Allow to cool for a short while then puree using a hand held mixer or a liquidizer.
  • Return the liquidised soup to the saucepan, add the cornflour and milk mix and season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.
  • Reheat gently.
  • Extra: we sometimes add dry roasted sunflower seeds to soups for an extra bite, or serve with a tasty bread like this variation of an irish soda bread.

Do you have any nettle tips, stories or recipes to share?

 

Sources:

Breverton’s Complete Herbal A Book of Remarkable Plants and Their Uses. Terry Breverton, Quercus, 2011
The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism. Edited by Malcolm Stuart, Guild Publishing, 1986

Community Gardens, Food & Drink

A Recipe for Friendship

December 19, 2016

Community Gardening - A Recipe for Friendship

Sharing Food

December is a time of year synonymous with friendship as we exchange cards, gifts, hugs and best wishes. Last week a group of community gardeners and stakeholders involved in  Gleann na Bearu garden in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow sat together and shared food. We were celebrating the achievements of the 11 people who had just completed a 12 week horticultural pilot programme I’ve been facilitating in the garden. I asked one of the community gardeners, Susan, if I could share the Kale and Spinach Soup recipe she made for the occasion using produce from the garden; you’ll find the recipe below.

Though the format was similar, this gardening course was different from others I’ve been involved with. It goes a step further in that the group will be undertaking three more modules in the New Year funded by Carlow County Development Partnership (CCDP), namely First Aid Responder, Manual Handling and Basic Machinery.  

All this basic training will combine to provide members of the group with a Certificate they will be able to present to future employers, giving the community gardeners a helping hand back to work if they ever need to use it. Their work experience is ongoing, albeit in a voluntary capacity in the community garden.

I wrote a case study about how this garden began and their progression over the last two years on the Community Gardens Ireland website, but as we were all reminded by Denis Shanahan from Respond during the end of year celebration, “it was due to the willingness of all the stakeholders to work together, that the garden and the people who meet in it were given the best support we could offer them.”

Carlow Youth Services, CCDP, Carlow/Kilkenny Education Training Board, Respond Housing and Carlow Council through Local Agenda 21, as well as Greenside Up have all put time, money and effort into this project and in a way, Susan’s soup was a marker for us all on its success to date.

Gleann na Bearu Community Garden Went Live on Facebook:

As we shared the homemade bread, buns and sandwiches provided by the other gardeners and listened to the short presentations from a couple more about what the course has meant for them (you can read Frances Micklem’s summary here on her Harmony Hall blog), Susan, who lives in the middle of this rural town and who is now officially our best garden soup maker, summed up what being a member of this community garden has meant for her:

“I didn’t know how to garden until I came here, I’d never seen vegetables growing, or knew what most of them were. I didn’t really know how to cook other than the basic ham, veg and potato dinners but now I’m cooking all sorts.”

Susan had also mentioned in the past that the garden is the only place she meets people other than online or in her immediate family circle.

Gleann na Bearu community garden is full of laughter, singing and fun as well as work and learning. My thoughts are that it’s due to the diversity of people who come together every week to learn and socialise in it. I should also mention that Susan made vegan blueberry buns recently to cater for one of our gardeners and she also participated in the Community Gardens Ireland Better Together video entry below. It’s not just the flowers I’ve watched blossom in that garden:

Kale and Spinach Soup Recipe

At a time of year when we need as much energy as we can muster, we hope you’ll cook, taste and share this soup recipe. Kale and Spinach are packed full of vitamins, fibre and minerals that will help keep our digestions healthy. Susan assured us all that even the non cabbage eaters in her home enjoyed it and the gardening group can confirm, it was delicious! Apart from the ginger and coriander, all the ingredients listed below were grown in the community garden this year, making it an almost free meal for up to 20 people.

Community Gardening - A Recipe for Friendship

Susan – Photo Credit: Esther Hawe

Susan’s kale and spinach soup ~ serving 20 people

6 bunches of kale
6 bunches of spinach
3 onions
2 leeks
1 bunch of parsley
2 kg potatoes
6 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp coriander
rosemary
Salt
Pepper
4 vegetable stock cubes in about 3 ltrs of boiling water (enough to cover the vegetables)

Method

Chop your onions and garlic and lightly fry them do not let them go brown.

Add your chopped up kale spinach and potatoes along with your seasoning and cover with your vegetables stock which you make using your stock cubes and water.

Bring to boil then simmer for 30 minutes or until vegetables are cooked.

Using a hand blender blend your vegetables to make a smooth soup and serve and enjoy.

Community Gardens

Community Gardening - A Recipe for Friendship

Creating Friendships – Photo Credit: Esther Hawe

Community gardening is so much more than planting a few veggies, digging or making compost. There are jobs for everyone and you can usually chose the one you like the best; the enjoyment one might get from digging can often be offset by the pleasure another gets from weeding. Community gardening is about friendship and sharing, it’s about empowering people, learning about food and the environment, biodiversity and working alongside others; it’s about supporting one another and inclusiveness. It’s as much about creating a community as it is about gardening.

If you’d like to learn more about community gardening or are looking for a community garden speaker, consultant or tutor in Ireland, contact me for further information. Let’s get community gardens growing everywhere.

Lets make 2017 the year that everybody hears about community gardening in Irealnd!

Food & Drink, Travel

Two Squash Soup & Kilkenny Food Camp

October 28, 2012
Thanksgiving Cornbread from Ron Wise at Savour Kilkenny

Thanksgiving Cornbread from Ron Wise at Savour Kilkenny

Kilkenny is buzzing this week with the sixth year of the annual food extravaganza that is Savour Kilkenny currently taking place. There’s so much happening in the Marble City – from cooking demonstrations  competitions, foraging and markets, tasting, talks and tasty tweet ups – every year the programme looks better and better.

Unfortunately I’ve yet to spend time at more than the atmospheric weekend market or for the third year running, Food Camp, but maybe next year we’ll make it to one of the evening meals instead of watching them unfold on twitter from the comfort of the sofa.

Blight Resistant Potatoes

Blight Resistant Potatoes on the Parade

I’m a big fan of the Food Camp which I’ve written about before and would encourage anyone who hasn’t yet been to one to make a date for next year.

Food Camp is a place where anyone with an interest in food is encouraged to talk about it. This sharing of passion sends you home motivated, worried, excited and above all more informed about aspects of the food world than you were four hours previously (or seven if you’re there for the day). This year was no exception. It can be difficult to choose which topic you want to sit in on as three run at the same time, but I wasn’t disappointed listening to Sarah Baker share her passion for teaching children of all ages about where food comes from and how to cook it, William Despard of The Bretzel Bakery confused that parents would sooner buy fancy buns than decent bread or Natasha Czopar share her knowledge and enthusiasm for raw food.

Savour Kilkenny 2012

Savour Kilkenny 2012

The last topic of the morning that sent me home uncomfortable about our future however, was from journalist Suzanne Campbell when she talked about sky rocketing global food prices that haven’t quite filtered down to us but soon will do.

Make no mistake, next year we’ll see food prices rise higher and higher, and they won’t be coming down in the foreseeable future either so we’re going to have to get used to paying a lot more for our weekly shopping. The global weather conditions – including droughts in the US to the long wet summers in Ireland and the UK will impact heavily. With our weekly or monthly housekeeping already stretched (and that’s before the November budget) surely it makes more sense than ever for people to grow their own food? Anything we can do to help keep our food bills at manageable levels has to be good and I for one will be planning to sow and grow more for my family next year.

In the meantime, this year we’ve had lots of squash growing in the polytunnel so when thinking about what to cook for the Food Camp lunch, given the event that it was, choosing to take a seasonal recipe along to the pot luck lunch seemed obvious. Slight confession here in that I didn’t use one of the several large winter squash growing here as my children had pestered my to buy some bright orange pumpkins for carving and we didn’t grow any this year. I did however, add some courgettes to the saucepan giving this a slight twist on the usual pumpkin soup. This recipe could easily be spiced up with the addition of some chilli or even a touch of five spice for a Far Eastern twist.

Winter squash harvest

Winter squash harvest

Ingredients

Diced flesh from a medium pumpkin
Medium Courgette, diced
4 medium potatoes, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1.5 ltrs vegetable stock
25g (1oz) butter
finely grated nutmeg
freshly ground salt & pepper
150ml milk

Carefully cut the top from the pumpkin and scoop out the contents. Place the empty pumpkin to one side. Discard the seeds (or clean and roast) and spread out the pumpkin flesh on a roasting tray. Bake in the oven at 175ºC for about an hour.

Once roasted, melt the butter and cook the onion gently for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan, without colouring.  Add the potato, roasted pumpkin, courgette, carrots and vegetable stock.  Cover, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 mins until the vegetables are tender.  Cool a little, then purée in a liquidiser.  Return to a clean saucepan and stir in the milk, grated nutmeg and season to taste.

To serve, empty the hot soup into the empty pumpkin and grate a little more nutmeg onto the top.

Ron & Mona Wise

Ron & Mona Wise  aka “The Chef & I”

My Savour Kilkenny experience ended by spending a few hours on the parade with two of our three children. Here we munched on the tastiest free range chicken baps, supped on Badger & Dodo lattes and hot chocolate then enjoyed meeting up with twitter friends and listening to Ron and Mona Wise talk and demonstrate how to cook a thanksgiving dinner…. mmmmm is all I can say to that, Ron’s stuffed turkey was something else and what a finish to a lovely couple of days.

The festival runs until Monday, 29th so you still have time to catch some of the events there.  See the website for more details.