The other day, walking the dogs in the hills near our house, I noticed the first clusters of nettles growing alongside the path. My foraging instincts took over and the next day I took a plastic bag with me and made sure I had a pair of gloves in my pocket. I was going to make nettle soup or rather soupe à l’ortie.
Nettles are packed with iron and vitamins, and the French, who are much more in tune with herbal remedies, love nothing more than cooking up a tisane (tea) to ease a maladie or ailment and nettles are no exception which they drink to treat cystitis, kidney problems and hay fever. I myself just stick with making nettle soup. It looks much like spinach soup, and I actually cook it as I would a spinach soup, but it has a unique taste, almost iodine.
It is best to pick the nettles at this time of year when they are young, but if you want to make it when the nettles are a bit taller, just pick the tips, avoiding any that have flowered. Try and make sure that you pick them up a bank or somewhere where dogs won’t have peed on them, also avoid picking them along the verge of the road. They do sting, so make sure you wear gloves, I just wore my normal leather gloves.
You will need about a bag full.
Soak them in water and then pick the leaves off the stalks, discarding the stalks.
Fry up an onion with a pat of butter and cook until translucent.
Peel and chop a potato or two (one if its big two if they’re smaller) and add to the onions, cook for about 10 minutes.
Heat up 1.2 litres of chicken or vegetable stock and pour over the potatoes. Cook for another 10 minutes or so and when the potatoes are nearly ready add the nettles
And cook for 5 – 10 minutes until they have cooked down, don’t cook them for too long as they will lose their colour.
Then whiz them up in the liquidizer and serve, adding a swirl of cream, with some soda bread and a glass of Guinness and give a toast to Saint Patrick.
Here’s a recipe for Soda Bread that Neassa, who lives nearby in Maussane, in Les Alpilles, makes, its her mam’s recipe from Dublin, so I wouldn’t mess with it!