It’s Stinging Nettle season in the Okanagan.
I get pretty excited leading up to this part of the year and start to dream up stinging nettle recipes weeks before the nettles are ready to pick. I also have an irrational tendency to panic over not having enough nettles to last me a year even if I have jars and jars of dried nettle leaf and plenty steamed, chopped nettles in the freezer. And why wouldn’t I?
Nettles make you feel good…
Nettles, as a food, deeply nourishes and restores arguably better than any other. It’s absolutely delicious as a green vegetable, mineral dense and slightly salty, so rich in broths and green smoothies. It dries easily and blends well with many other herbs for nourishing infusions, and a pinch added to tisane blends adds depth of flavour and colour.
I like to blend nettle tea with red clover and peppermint for an enjoyable, full flavoured tisane that not only tastes great it supports the adrenals, balances hormones, boosts fertility, settles the stomach, and helps prevent cancer; all while being rich in vitamins, minerals and life giving vibrancy.
I’m not going to go in depth as to why nettles are awesome, today. Instead I am going to share a recipe. I’ll probably make a nice monograph for nettles another time.
I’m in the mood to make, taste and experience good food made from nettles, so when I got home with the first of my harvest I made a batch of this delicious and nourishing soup. It is a creamy soup but not your traditional stodgy, thickened with flour, cream of chicken soup. It is light yet rich, made with fresh spring cream and scratch made chicken broth . A simple seasonal dish that is easy to make and very delicious, if not a little French rustic.
Creamy Nettle & Chicken Soup
8 cups of freshly picked nettles
1 whole chicken, rinsed well (Pasture raised, organic, is best but work with what you’ve got.)
2T olive oil
2 onions, fine diced
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
4 carrots, sliced
1T apple cider vinegar
1 cup fresh cream (Again, the best is from pastured, organic cows, and watch out for funky additives.)
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
Chopped spring chives and chive blossoms to garnish
In a stock pot that will accommodate a whole bird, sauté the onions and carrots in the olive oil and butter until they soften and become deeper in flavour, releasing their aromatics. This will be your flavour base for the soup. Don’t over colour your onions and carrots, this soup is on the delicate side of flavour profiles. You want to enjoy the subtle flavours of nettles, broth, cream and chives and a more fresh and purifying sense in the mouth, unlike the colder months rich, slow cooked, winter soups.
Throw in the chopped garlic and bay leaf and sauté until there is a release of aroma. Add the vinegar and stir to deglaze the pan. Drop your bird into the pot then cover with fresh, cold, filtered water. Add a good tablespoon of salt and some cracked pepper to the pot and turn up the heat. Bring the broth to a boil then immediately turn the heat down to a gentle simmer.
After about 10 minutes a little bit of scum will surface. Grab your ladle and skim it off. Now you can use the pot’s lid to partially cover the stock pot so that the steaming broth can baste the top of the bird, as it will tend to float a bit as it cooks.
Leave your broth to simmer for an hour. While the broth simmers you can very lightly steam the nettles in a pot, just until they turn a gorgeous, bright green. Strain them, reserving the green liquid to add to the broth. Once they cool enough to handle roughly chop them up and set aside for serving.
After the broth has simmered for about an hour, test the doneness of the chicken. The meat should slip easily off the bone. Remove the cooked bird, strain the juices that run off but pour them back into the pot. Keep the broth simmering uncovered to reduce and concentrate the flavour while you deal to the chicken meat.
When the chicken is cool enough to handle pull the meat off the bones and chop half of it for the nettle soup. Save the rest of the meat for another dish tomorrow, it will have a lovely flavour and should be anything but dry.
Once the broth has reduced enough to your liking, take your ladle once again and skim off any undesired fat. There will be a layer floating on top. You may wish to keep it all, it is good fats after all. Or, like me, you may prefer a less oily soup and leave only enough to make yummy looking pools of goodness around the edges of the bowl. Now add the chicken meat back to the pot, add the cream and check the seasoning….
Is it good? No? Try more salt. Scratch made broth needs a good amount of salt in it. Not too much though, the nettles are a bit salty as they are mineral dense, but you won’t notice so much as not need extra salt once served.
Let everything warm back up together.
When ready to serve, portion the nettles into each bowl then ladle the hot soup on top of the greens.
Garnish with chopped spring chives and chive blossoms. Season if desired.
Serve with a salad of wild spring greens and slices of baguette spread with fresh butter.
Enjoy your yummy, creamy, nettle goodness.
I have some more nettle greens recipes to share and I might do some tutorials on preparing nettles for the freezer, in vinegars for nutrient dense vinaigrettes, and drying them for teas and infusions.
Or I might not. I have a strange perspective on blogging right now, currently feeling it’s a bit vain and self promoting, because, well it kind of is, hah! But on the other hand there are some great benefits, like getting to nerd out and write a monograph that has to be good because it will be scrutinised.
And I like that I have decided to share recipes. I have a skill and a passion for food, and now that I am not working in the culinary arts I no longer have to treat food (crap quality, so-called food that is) as a profit margin.
I love that I am falling in love with my culture of food and dining all over again. It’s like re-immersing myself into my true beliefs towards preparing and sharing nourishment that also tastes amazing. It’s about home grown and hand gathered, about slowing down, taking time, sharing with the ones I love and hanging out in bliss over a dish with a good glass of wine. Remembering my own food culture actually helps me deal with my homesickness. Now that’s got to be healthy.
It’s just too good not to share. We shall see what happens next…
Until next time, eat your weeds!