Nettle Soup & Nettle Pesto

Grow Your Own Drugs by James WongNettle Soup

This pretty spring soup from Grow Your Own Drugs by James Wong (HarperCollins,  £16.99), is described as a ‘Restorative’, and it was traditional in Ireland for ‘cleansing the blood’ after the dark months of winter. Nettles (urtica dioica) are at their best in spring when the fresh young growth is tender, tasty and packed with nourishing vitamins, minerals and chlorophyll, helping to build up natural immunity and protect from infections after the winter You don’t have to grow nettles, of course, they do it very well all by themselves – and can safely be picked from clean hedgerows away from busy roads, and where they will not have been sprayed.

Nettle Soup by James WongMakes enough for 6.
25g/1oz butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
400g/14oz potatoes, peeled and chopped
450 g/ 1lb freshly picked nettle tops (wear gloves to collect), washed
1 litre vegetable stock
150ml/ ¼ pint double cream
freshly grated nutmeg
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large pan, melt the butter and gently cook the onion and garlic for 10 minutes. Add the potatoes and nettles and fry for 2 minutes. Add the stock and cover, then bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
Leave to cool.

2. Purée the ingredients with a handheld bender, then stir in the cream and season with a little nutmeg, salt and pepper. Reheat and serve at once.

Nettle Pesto 

This is another simple, tasty way to get the benefits of urtica dioica. Just cook a big handful of the tender young nettle tips (about 150 g) in boiling water for about 2 minutes. Drain, then drop into a blender along with some freshly grated Parmesan, 2 chopped garlic cloves, a handful of pine nuts and about 80 ml olive oil. Whiz until smooth, then spoon over freshly cooked pasta and mix in well.

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