My mum has obviously realised that her older daughter (that's me) is 'into such things' - wild food & edible weeds, I mean. So when she saw stinging nettles growing in her vegetable patch, she left them there for me instead of throwing into compost pile like they have done for the previous decades. When popping by for our weekly cup of coffee last Thursday (I was at my high school reunion this weekend, so we went to see her a bit earlier), she gave me a bunch of chives, some beautiful pink peonies, and a large handful of stinging (and very much so!) nettles.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is widely available in Estonia - though not in the shops. You'd find it growing in your back garden, on the meadows and fields, and alongside your fence. Contains plenty of vitamin C, carotine, vitamin K, and considerable amounts of E- and B-vitamins. Practicioners of herbal medicine know many uses for stinging nettles, but there's also a culinary aspect to this weed. There are 17 pages of recipes and tips for various culinary uses of stinging nettle in the book of wild weeds (see left). Another cookbook I've got, Soome-ugri kokaraamat alias a cookbook of Finno-Ugric people that includes recipes of Hungarian, Finnish, Estonian, Livonian, Karelian, Votic, Vepsian, Sami/Lappish, Mansi/Vogul, Udmurt, Komi, Mari/Cheremisic, Ingrian/Izhorian, Mordvinic, and Khanty/Ostyak culinary heritage, also contains a number of recipes using nettles. Nettle leaves can be added into soups, stews, salads, omelettes and meat dishes (add chopped nettle into the meatballs or meatloaf, for example); they can be used as a pie filling (like my ground elder hortapita) or even to make nettle wine. I opted for a simple green soup, which in one form or another appears in quite a few Estonian sources.
Eesti keeles võite nõgestest lugeda veel Thredahlia blogist.
Nettle soup with eggs & herbs
Serves 2-3 as a starter
100 grams of stinging nettle leaves*
500 ml water
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
1 Tbsp plain flour
500 ml vegetable, chicken or beef stock, hot
salt & black pepper
2 boiled eggs
finely chopped fresh dill & chives
Bring the water to the boil, add the nettle leaves and blanch for 2 minutes (THIS ELIMINATES THE STINGING PROPERTIES OF THE NETTLES, SO YOU CAN FREELY TOUCH THEM). Rinse quickly under cold water and drain lightly. Puree in a blender and put aside.
Heat olive oil in a saucepan, add onions and saute on a medium heat for 7-8 minutes to soften slightly. Add the flour, mix thoroughly and fry for 1 minute (do not brown!). Add hot stock, a little at a time and mixing thoroughly to incorporate the flour & onion mixture. Boil for about 3 minutes, then add the pureed nettle and heat through. Season with salt & pepper.
Ladle into small soup bowls, add a halved or chopped boiled egg and garnish with chopped herbs.
* Use a pair of rubber gloves to tear off the leaves from the stalks, as stinging nettles do really live up to their name at this stage.
WHB: This is also my entry to the Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by Rachel of Rachel's Bite.