I love having the time to cook, I have such a busy life with my two girls that I don’t often get to cook what I like let alone experiment with different ingredients. Being in Scotland with family at the moment is just amazing and because Hazel’s daddy (Alex) is just like me, he is very open minded about my crazy creative ideas! He is a wild Scot and lives for the outdoors, which I love. He is also very skilled at foraging and cooking…another bonus. After our plans have gone out the window to go all over Scotland during these holidays, we got planning things to keep us all entertained as well as me keeping busy staying creative. Alex is always spotting some amazing wild things on our walks and tells us lots of random facts and about the outdoors and what is edible and more importantly free, there is literally more than you would believe!
So, we have decided to combine my passion of lifestyle photography, simple living and styling with Alex’s wild nature, making us a great team to share some of our wild recipe creations…
Nettles (Urtica dioica) are a very common plant and are actually packed with vitamins. They have been used in recipes and remedies for thousands of years despite having a bad name for themselves! They are an underrated plant that most people associate with being stung, but actually are very complimentary in dishes. We decided to go hunting yesterday for some nettles around the local farm, as they are just starting to emerge around certain areas. Nettles tend to grow in woodland areas and places where the soil is rich, especially around ruins; you can always spot a nettle by their distinct hair and spiky leaves which makes them hard to mix up with other plants.
TOP TIPS FOR NETTLE PICKING
- Pick nettles in spring time before flowering
- Make sure you use gloves for picking
- Pick the greener leaves rather than the purple tinged ones as these are more bitter
- Remove all the stalks and only use the top leaves of the plant
- Wash nettles thoroughly before prepping
- Blanch nettles with boiling water for 1-2 minutes to get rid of the sting
Here are a couple of recipes we made today. Nettles can be used in all sorts of dishes once cooked and should be treated like spinach once blanched.
WILD NETTLE SOUP
150g Nettle Heads
1 x Onion
2 x Small leeks
1 x Celery sticks
1 x Garlic clove
1 x Medium Potato
1 x Large Carrot
1 Litre Vegetable stock
200ml Double Cream (optional or use a low fat yoghurt alternative)
Salt and Pepper
- Cook the barley in a medium pan according to packaging instructions (this usually takes 1 hour) start chopping up the garlic, celery, leek, potato and carrots into relatively small chunks.
- Melt the butter in a large pan and soften all of the vegetables for about 10 minutes without overly browning the veggies. Add the drained/cooked barley and vegetable stock and simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Add the nettles and cook for another 2-3 minutes, take off of the heat add salt and pepper to taste and add the double cream, blend until smooth.
- Serve with snipped chives and crusty bread (or wild nettle bread below!)
WILD NETTLE BREAD ROLLS
1 1/2 tsp Yeast
300g (11oz) Strong Wholemeal Flour
300g Strong White Flour
2 tsp Sugar
2 tsp Oil
1 1/2 tsp Salt
50g Chopped Blanched Nettles
Small bunch of Chives
For decorating rolls
1 x Egg
Salt and Pepper
Nettle Heads (1 leaf per roll)
- Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl, add the yeast, sugar, oil and mix well. Gradually introduce the water until well mixed, add the chives and chopped nettles and mix evenly throughout.
- Sprinkle flour onto your work surface and knead dough until soft and smooth, this can take a good 30 minutes) you will then need to cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour until doubled in size.
- Grease a baking tray and shape into equal balls, space them apart and slightly flatten them, cover with cling film and leave to prove again in a warm place for another 25 minutes. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Gas Mark 7.
- Once the rolls have doubled, top each roll with some egg, sprinkle some salt and pepper and garnish with a single nettle leaf on each. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes until risen/cooked through.
- Split open when warm and serve alongside some yummy soup (Wild Nettle soup!) x