I love cooking outdoors. I love rambling about and finding stuff to make a meal with. Where we regularly go camping there are shops nearby and this has certainly helped to expand our repertoire. This is not wilderness cooking by any means (there is also a fridge on the farm we stay at) but there is something very special about creating tasty food whilst surrounded by fields and birds.
The first time I suggested making nettle soup to my long-standing camping companion he wasn’t overtly thrilled with the concept –
‘Why would we want to eat that?’ he said.
‘Well, apparently it’s really nice,’ I replied, ‘and if it’s horrible we can always go to the pub for dinner.’
Settled – nettles or beer. Although nettle beer is excellent…
I’d seen various chefs make it but didn’t have a recipe (nor any phone signal to look one up) so we had to make do with what we had – an onion, a bit of garlic, some water, and a bit of powdered stock I’d brought just in case. We also baked a potato in the campfire to use to thicken it up with (which added a lovely edge of slight smokiness) and I have to say the finished results were pretty fantastic.
The wonderful thing about nettles is surely not only the fact that they are tasty, rich with iron (and therefore very good for you), but the fact that they are FREE!!! They are usually at their best in the spring but can be picked throughout the summer – just make sure you choose the younger, shorter ones.
You need the nettle tops for cooking with and avoid picking near roads or where they might have sprayed (either with chemicals or by passing dogs). The part you are looking to pluck off it the top four or so leaves from the nettles and they come off quite easily but gloves are highly recommended!
You should be able to find a good crop of nettles in any park or green and it doesn’t take too long to gather enough to cook with. Wash them in cold water and wring them out before chopping (again, gloves essential here!) Go on, give it a go – you’ll be amazed at the results!
75g (or about half a carrier-bags worth) nettle tops, washed and chopped
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive oil (or a good knob of butter)
1 pint (563ml) chicken or vegetable stock
1 medium sized potato, cubed
Salt and pepper
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
½ tsp grated nutmeg (optional)
Add the oil or butter to a saucepan over a medium-low heat and when it is hot, throw in the chopped onion and garlic. Cook gently so as not to colour.
When the onion is soft, stir in the washed, chopped nettle tops and let them sizzle and steam for a minute or so.
Add the stock and cubed potato then turn up the heat to bring the soup to the boil then simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes or until the potato is soft.
Remove from the heat and blend to a smooth consistency with either a stick blender or in a food processor.
Return to a low heat and season to taste, adding the nutmeg if you like.
Finally, swirl through the natural yoghurt and serve with crusty bread.