On Thursday night, I watched the film ‘Wilde’ with Stephen Fry and I was going to find a ditty from dear Oscar for you for today. But as I was looking through my Oxford Anthology of English Poetry (three volume boxed set) I found this and I was immediately transported into the blackness and fire and smell of the blacksmith’s forge. There is something ancient and magical about a blacksmith, about the skill of turning iron from the earth into objects that somehow tie us to the earth – we need a bit of that, I reckon.
The Forge – by Seamus Heaney (1939 -)
All I know is a door into the dark.
Outside, old axles and iron hoops rusting;
Inside, the hammered anvil’s short-pitched ring,
The unpredictable fantail of sparks
Or hiss when a new shoe roughens in water.
The anvil must be somewhere in the centre,
Horned as a unicorn, at one end square,
Set there immoveable: an alter
Where he expends himself in shape and music.
Sometimes, leather-aproned, hairs in his nose,
He leans out on the jamb, recalls a clatter
Of hoofs where traffic is flashing in rows;
Then grunts and goes in, with a slam and flick
To beat real iron out, to work the bellows.
Nettle Soup is really one of the great joys of late Spring. Nettles are free, have as much iron as spinach and are packed full of antihistamines which makes them excellent prophylactic medicine for the hayfever sufferer. It freezes well and looks and tastes divine. Steamed nettles can also be eaten on their own as a vegetable and, if passed through a flame to destroy the stinging hairs, can be eaten raw if one is practising survival techniques.
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you to wear rubber or gardening gloves to pick nettles and it’s best to use the young fresh stalks or the bright green tops.
I shall have to put the photo on tomorrow as I have temporarily mislaid my camera on which the photograph of last night’s supper waits purposefully for it’s inevitable upload.
1 large pan
1 x chopping board
1 x stick blender
2oz / 60g butter
1 large onion – chopped finely
1 large carrot – chopped finely
1 large garlic clove – chopped finely
2 pints / 1l chicken stock
½ carrier bag nettles (remove tough stalks)
3 tablespoons cooked rice (to thicken it)
1 pinch nutmeg
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tablespoons thick cream
Bit of extra cream for garnishy swirlyness
Chopped parsley to garnish (if you wish)
Melt butter in a large pan
Sweat the onion, carrot and garlic until soft but not brown
Add the stock and pile in the nettles
Bring to the boil and then simmer for 5-10 minutes until the nettles are tender
Add the rice and seasoning, then purée with the stick blender
Stir in the cream
Garnish with a swirl of cream and chopped parsley
Serve with tasty, seedy bread