This weekend I decided to practise what I preached earlier on in this blog by going out foraging, also known as ‘seeing what wild goodies I can collect to feed myself with’. Foraging scares a lot of people – it sounds difficult, time-consuming and frankly, dull. To these people I say, you are incorrect, sirs.
Obviously if you’re a ready-meal enthusiast, picking your own is not for you. It does require going out, finding some tasty leaves, gathering them up and bringing them home. However, as well as usually getting to go on a nice walk, it’s surprising how much you can gather in a small amount of time. In a ninety-minute walk from Combe Down in Bath to the charming Tucking Mill (victim of many a name-alteration), on Sunday, I collected a huge bag of green things to take home, including these beauties below.
Something I’ve rather shied away from in the past are nettles, since in my view, they sting you with their stupid pointy hairs and martyrs make shirts out of them. These are good reasons for nettles not receiving my time or custom.
However, they have long been used as a foodstuff. Native Americans would harvest the young plant in spring, and nettle cordial can be traced back to the Romans. Stinging nettles taste similar to spinach, have an unusually high protein content for a vegetable and are rich in vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium and calcium. Clearly they are something I must learn to love. So, step one, harvest your nettles. They grow in abundance everywhere in the UK, and are easily recognisable. I took thick gloves and pulled the stalks up from the roots, then washed them in hot water (this neutralises the stinging chemicals and makes them safe to eat. A crucial step, unless you are these insane people).
After some internet research into what to do with my lovely safe nettles, I decided to adapt foraging king Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s basic nettle soup recipe. Here’s my revised version.
carrier bag full of nettles
1 onions, sliced
1 carrot, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
1 large garlic clove, crushed
1 litre good chicken stock (I used some we made from a roast a few weeks ago)
1 cup cooked rice
100g feta cheese
Pick over the nettles and wash them thoroughly. Discard the tougher stalks. Melt the butter in a large pan and sweat the onion, the carrot, 2 stalks of the celery and the garlic until soft. Add the stock and pile in the nettles. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until the nettles are tender. Add the cooked rice and simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve, garnished with celery and crumbled feta. It’s pretty good, if I do say so myself.