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.
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.
1 x small saucepan or poaching pan
2 x medium saucepan
½ carrier bag of nettles
1 knob of butter
1 quantity of cheese sauce – see below
a little paprika
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
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
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.