Equipped with gloves and a pair of scissors, it’s time to open the door to nature’s own pantry and look for spring’s first primeurs – which are also completely free of charge – the young, tender shoots of stinging nettles that’ll make a delicious nettle soup.
Ow, ow you might think, that doesn’t sound like something I’ll fill my mouth and stomach with! Well, don’t eat them raw and be careful to wear gloves when picking and clearing them. When soaked in water, cooked or dried the stinging chemicals are destroyed and you can handle and eat the nettles without getting stung.
Nettles are extremely nourishing and rich in vitamins A, C, D, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. When cooked they taste pretty much like spinach and in most recipes containing spinach you can replace it with nettles.
Nettles are also high in nitrogen and therefore an excellent fertilizer that’ll make your garden and vegetables sky rocket. To make the liquid manure, fill up a bucket with nettles, fill the rest up with water and allow to steep for a week or so until water starts to stink (cover with a lid if too unpleasant) and gets a browny color. Throw the used nettles on your compost pile where they’ll speed up the decomposition process. Dilute one part of fertilizer with ten parts of water before using and you have just made yourself a very potent, environmentally friendly and to no cost at all (here I go again) fertilizer. Just don’t over-fertilize!
Well, back to my nettle soup, this delicatessen, that highlights SPRING and is a common use of the plant especially in Scandinavia and certain parts of Eastern Europe. For most people though, I guess, the stinging nettle is just regarded as an unpleasant weed in their gardens, just like the ground elder which can actually be used just the same way as the nettles. So my advice to those of you who struggle with these intruders is simply: If you can’t fight them – EAT them!
Nettle soup with poached egg
- 1.5 liters of nettles
- 1 liter of water
- 2 vegetable stock cubes
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 pressed garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 deciliter of cream
- chopped chives for decoration
- Clear the nettles and remove any sharp stems.
- Place the nettles in a large bowl and fill up with water.
- Stir occasionally to make sand and dirt sink to the bottom.
- Repeat this process once more with new water.
- Boil water with a little salt and add the nettles and give them a quick boil.
- Strain the cooking water and add the stock cubes and bring to a boil again.
- Fry onions and garlic for a couple of minutes until soft.
- Squeeze liquid from nettles and let them fry with the onions.
- Dust with flour and dilute with the broth little by little and let simmer covered for about ten minutes.
- Blend the soup in a food processor, little by little, bring to boil again and add the cream.
- Adjust seasoning according to taste.
- 4 eggs
- 1 liter of water
- ½ deciliter white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- Boil water, salt and vinegar just before serving.
- Crack an egg at a time into a cup and gently drop the egg into the water when it starts boiling.
- Immediately remove the pan from the burner.
- With a spoon, nudge the eggwhites closer to their yolks and let stand covered for 4-5 minutes.
- Lift eggs out of pan with a slotted spoon and place on a towel.
- Divide soup into four bowls, gently add the eggs and garnish with chopped chives.
If you prefer you can just as well serve the soup with hard-boiled eggs cut in halves. That’s what I generally do, but as I have never poached an egg before I thought I would give it a try.