Tag Archives: spinach

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.


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

½ carrier bag of nettles
4 eggs
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

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

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.


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

Time to grasp the Nettles – and make soup out of them

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.

Nettle Soup

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


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

Halibut Femme de Guerre

I seem to remember saying that, if my dinner party the other week went off alright, I’d share the menu with you.  Lady Somerset is a Pescetarian (which I thought was a former Soviet state) and she is also a little prone to anaemia.  So.  The menu was:-

Watercress soup with crème fraiche
Elderflower sorbet with mixed fruit sauce (as an amuse bouche)
Halibut Femme de Guerre
Tarte Tatin and Bread and Butter Pudding with custard
English Cheese*, biscuits and fruit

(* with a lump de Roquefort because the French market had come to town and we couldn’t resist it)

Because I am usually hosting dinner parties by myself, I tend to plan them with military precision but Lady Somerset was having none of it.  She made me go into town in the morning and look at things and sit in coffee shops and stare at frocks, while I tried very hard not to chew my own limbs off in my anxiety to get home and start the preparations.  The upside of this was that we went to the fish shop to see what they had and then decided what to make on the strength of it.  I’m more than happy to do this for normal meals but it felt a bit scary when we was ‘avin’ compny.  We came up with this, to serve 6 and it was fab.


Chopping board
1 x large frying pan or Paella pan
1 x large pan
A method of warming plates – important

6oz / 180g butter
1 medium onion – finely chopped
6fl oz / 175ml vegetable stock
6 fillets of halibut – skin on
2 bags of fresh spinach – any large stalks removed
1 tspn lemon juice
2 tblspn Marsala
1 tspn fresh chopped thyme
1 tspn fresh chopped parsley
36 medium or 24 large prawns

Melt 1oz/30g of the butter in the frying pan, add the onion and cook until soft
Add the stock to the pan and bring to a simmer
Place the halibut into the pan, skin side up and simmer very gently for about 4 minutes
Add the prawns and cook for a further 2 minutes
Cover the pan and set aside, keeping it warm
Melt another 1oz / 30g of the butter in the large pan
Add the spinach and turn up the heat, stirring continually until it is just softening
Divide the spinach between six plates, shaping it into a nice square or oblong
Remove the skin from the fish and place one fillet on the top of each square of spinach
Remove the prawns from the frying pan and put it back on the heat
Add the remaining butter and boil rapidly until the liquid has reduced and is starting to look like a sauce
Add the lemon, Marsala and the herbs and boil for another 30 seconds or so
Add the prawns and just stir them around a bit until they are warmed through
Arrange the prawns nicely around the fish
Pour over the butter sauce, making sure it looks attractive on the plate and serve

I also served new Anya potatoes, julienne carrots and broccoli


Filed under Entertaining, Food, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes

Fishcakes and Martian Burgers

Empty Plate Fishcakes -25.08.09These are both recipes that use storecupboard ingredients, take minutes to make and are nutritious and tasty for adults and children alike.  We often have the fishcakes for breakfast but they can be served at any meal, adjusting the quantities appropriately.  If I’m making mashed potato for another meal eg. with sausages or on Shepherd’s Pie, I often make a bit extra and pop it in the fridge ready to make these Fishcakes or Martian burgers the next day.  I call them Martian Burgers, by the way, because they’re green and it’s  a sneaky method of making the youngest of  The Boys want to eat something with spinach in it.  Such is the perversity of children that, even though he likes spinach, he won’t eat it if he’s told what he’s eating.   These are fiendishly healthy (Omega 3, low fat protein etc) so you can enjoy them with a sense of smug self righteousness, whilst still acquiring a full tum.

Serve them with salad, peas, green beans or any vegetables you like.  They can also be made in batches and frozen, but make sure you slip a little bit of greaseproof paper in between them to stop them sticking.



Frying pan
Mixing bowl
Fish slice or tongs

Ingredients:  Makes about 6 large fishcakes

3 large tblspn mashed potato
1 x tin tuna – drained
1 x tin mackerel – drained
1 egg
1 tblspn parsley (half if dried)
1/2 tsp paprika
Wholemeal flour for coating
1 tblspn oil and 2oz butter for frying


Put all the ingredients in a bowl and mash them up thoroughly with a fork.

Divide the mixture into 6 and shape into cakes

Coat in the wholemeal flour

Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan until hot but not going brown.

Place the fishcakes into the frying pan and cooking, turning occasionally until golden brown.


Utensils – as above


3 large tblspn mashed potato
1 small tin sweetcorn
1 egg
3 tblspn spinach – defrosted and as much water squeezed out as possible
3 oz (75g) cheese – grated
1 tblspn parsley (half if dried)
Wholemeal flour for coating
1 tblspn oil and 2oz butter for frying

Method – as above


Filed under Children, Food, Nutrition & Sensible Eating, Recipes, Storecupboard