Green Nettle Delight
Dear Spring, thank you for the nettles, for giving them to me! This has been this past week’s mantra for me. And that’s because I bought heaps of nettle from the farmers’ market and I started fantasizing about all the lovely stuff to make with it. I started with my childhood staple, nettle purée with a side of polenta and a lovely addition of fried egg.
To be perfectly honest, I did not enjoy this dish as a child; not one bit. But with time, I started to love it. And now, every Spring it’s a delight to see nettle piled on the market stalls, waiting to be bought, cleaned, cooked and relished.
As soon as I got home, I spread the bags of nettle on my work table and proceeded to cutting and cleaning them. This seems like a tricky process, but it’s not really that difficult. You might want to use gloves for this; I didn’t and I got stung a little, but it wasn’t all that painful. The idea is to first pick up the stems one by one and tap them with the closed scissors so that the dirt, bugs and other organic matter all comes off. Next, cut the stems: if you like more fiber, don’t cut so much off. The next step is to wash them and dry them in a salad spinner or colander. After washing and drying, you need to choose how you will want to use them. For nettle tea, you can dry them in a paper bag until leaves crack, but don’t turn brown. For using in salads or pesto, blanch for 1 minute in boiling water. For my family recipe of Nettle Purée, please scroll down.
1 kg nettle, cleaned, cut, washed and dried
1 small onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
50g/3 Tblsp unsalted butter
100ml/½cup full-fat milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Pair with simple polenta and a fried egg, if you like
Bring 1L/4 cups of water to a boil. Add the nettles and allow to boil for about 10 minutes, until soft. Prepare a water bath by placing cold water and ice cubes in a large bowl. Remove nettles and place in the ice bath, this will keep the nettles’ intense green colour. If you want to, save the boiled and drink it as tea, it has wonderful properties.
Next, strain the nettles and place them together with the onion in the bowl of your food processor and whizz just until it turns into a purée. Place the butter and the garlic in a skillet set over medium. Once sizzling, add the nettle purée to the skillet, mix well to combine with a wooden spoon or spatula. Add the milk and cook on medium, stirring from time to time, until the milk has been completely absorbed. Add salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from the hob, divide between plates and serve with polenta and a fried egg.