Tag Archives: country walks

Nettles – the free alternative to Spinach

In which the Wartime Housewife points out that nettles gathered from the hedgerow are free whilst spinach costs over £1 per bag.  Plus a recipe for Egg Florentine Au Naturel.

Nettles - free food

While Boy the Elder was tramping through the Brecon Beacons this weekend, Boy the Younger and I decided to strike out into the countryside ourselves.  When BTY fell off his scooter for the 3rd time, he got, complaining miserably that he had been stung.  And so he had.  The very first nettles were peeping through the brown, sodden remains of last year’s foliage, vivid green and packed full of venom.

It won’t be long before we can start having Nettle Soup again! we cheered.  But nettles are a perfectly good vegetable in their own right.  The other dish I really like to make is Egg Florentine which is usually made with spinach (which is the ‘Florentine’ bit) but can be made equally well with nettles. It would make an incredibly nourishing breakfast dish as well as a light lunch.

How to prepare nettles for eating

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to wear rubber or thick gardening gloves when harvesting nettles.  Always use the young tender leaves or the tender tops off older plants.  Get rid of any tough stalks and give them a good wash to get rid of any insects or anything else you wouldn’t want to eat.  Then treat them just like fresh spinach.

EGG FLORENTINE

Utensils:
Rubber gloves
1 x small saucepan or poaching pan
2 x medium saucepan

Ingredients:
½ carrier bag of nettles
4 eggs
1 knob of butter
1  quantity of cheese sauce – see below
a little paprika

Method:
Make the cheese sauce and keep it warm
Place the nettles into a medium saucepan with a little water and a knob of butter
Cover and steam until tender
Soft boil or poach the eggs
Drain the nettles and divide between 4 plates
Place one egg onto the top of each pile of nettles
Pour cheese sauce over the top of each
Sprinkle with a little paprika and serve immediately

Cheese sauce
2oz / 60g butter
2oz / 60g wholemeal flour (or 2 really heaped tablespoons)
4oz / 120g cheese – grated
½ pint / 300ml milk
1 pinch mustard power / ¼  teaspoon ready made mustard

Method:
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a pan then slowly
Stir in the flour and mustard powder to make thick paste (a roux)
Add the milk a bit at a time, stirring constantly
Simmer gently until the sauce has thickened slightly and then stir in the cheese

The sauce can also be done in a bowl in the microwave.  Follow the steps above but instead of simmering in a pan, pop the bowl in the microwave for about 3 minutes, taking it out to stir occasionally.

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Filed under Food, Hedgerows, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Seasonal

A Cheap Day Out on a Rainy Day

Hurricane Jigsaw 27.07.09The school holidays are always a challenge when you have lively children, and although the older ones should be able to entertain themselves at least some of the time, we all need a bit of fresh air to run off energy and clear our heads.

Today the weather was very changeable but, as rain is not actually dangerous, we donned our wellies and macs and set off for Borough Hill, an  Iron Age hill fort run by Leicester County Council and, importantly, free.  There is nothing there but stunning views, cows and sheep and plenty of trees to climb, and we spent a glorious hour running around, getting stuck in rabbit holes and throwing dried sheep poo at each other (although perhaps I should draw a discreet veil over that.  Do make sure to wash your hands after throwing sheep poo…).

However, huge black clouds soon rolled in and we pulled up our hoods and ran back to the car.  It was now lunchtime and the boys needed feeding.  Eating out can often be more expensive than the trip itself and I would normally take a modest picnic on a walk – nothing exotic, sandwiches, crisps or raisins, fruit, a home made flapkack or a Penguin and fruit juice decanted into re-used soft drink bottles are perfectly adequate and healthy.  But today was clearly not an al fresco opportunity.   Everyone must explore their own environment to find  good cheap places to eat, but as a starting point, I would recommend investigating your local garden centres.  Many of them have excellent, cheap snacks and often children’s lunch boxes for as little as £2 which nearly always have a little puzzle book or game.  Although we all know of certain fast food chains that offer similar value, one should always support local business first, or our towns and villages will wither away.  We found a delightful garden centre on our way home which not only offered delicious food but also had gift shops, clothing, books and a play area.  I enjoyed oohing and aahing over plants for my impending garden and they had a super time in the play area.

It was now absolutely torrenting with rain so we agreed that we would go home and do something together.  Like most of you, I have an extremely busy life and, sadly, have little opportunity to spend as much time as I would like with my children. It was therefore  a real pleasure for us all to sit down with a jigsaw puzzle, intermittently arguing about who’d lost the pieces, enduring The Cat tormenting us by relentlessly sitting in the middle of the half finished puzzle and finally relinquishing the last piece to my elder son who could then claim that he’d done the lot.

I live in a country village, but I have lived in the city and I know that amenities vary greatly.   Most areas have parks or somewhere to walk and you’d be amazed at where you can get to on a bus.  Council or Tourist Information offices have great information about days out and how to get there, so make the most of them.

Would you like to try my recipe for the stickiest flapjacks in existence?  Then you must keep visiting The Wartime Housewife dear Bloggers, who knows what you might find!

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Filed under Children, Outdoor Activities