Cream of Nettle Soup with Garlic Mustard Oil
Updated: Aug 26
What an exciting time of the year early spring is. Mother nature begins to wake from her winter slumber and the green shoots and new years growth starts its push toward sunlight. One of the first edible plants to be seen is the easy to recognise Stinging Nettles. The stinging nettle is simply one of the most nutritious leaves you can eat, full of Vitamins and rich in Iron it is not only healthy but also a very tasty vegetable. This soup is simple and doesn't take to long to make, when accompanied by an equally easy to make garlic mustard oil it elevates what could be a simple soup to a new and even tastier dimension!
How do you pick nettles for Nettle Soup?
Picking nettles for nettle soup requires some precautions and careful handling due to the stinging hairs on the plant. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to pick nettles for nettle soup:
Wear protective clothing: Before you start picking nettles, it's advisable to wear gloves, long sleeves, and trousers to protect your skin from the stinging hairs. Thick gardening gloves or rubber gloves work well.
Choose young nettle leaves: Young nettle leaves are tender and have a milder flavour. Look for the top few pairs of leaves on the nettle plant, as they are usually the most desirable for culinary use.
Look for healthy plants: Select nettles that appear healthy and vibrant, avoiding any plants that show signs of disease or insect damage.
Avoid areas of pollution: Make sure to pick nettles from areas free from pollution and that have not been sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. It's best to pick nettles from areas away from roadsides or heavily trafficked areas.
Use scissors or gloves: To pick the nettles, you can either wear gloves and use your hands or use a pair of scissors to snip off the top few pairs of leaves. If you choose to use your hands, be careful not to touch the stinging hairs.
Place nettles in a bag or basket: Collect the nettle leaves in a bag or basket, ensuring that they don't get crushed or damaged while you continue to gather more.
Rinse and blanch: Once you have gathered enough nettle leaves, take them indoors and rinse them thoroughly with cold water to remove any dirt or debris. Then, blanch the nettles by placing them in a pot of boiling water for about 1-2 minutes. Blanching will neutralise the stinging hairs, making the nettles safe to handle and cook.
After blanching, the nettles are ready to be used in your nettle soup recipe. Remember to discard any tough stems before adding the blanched leaves to your soup.
Note: Always exercise caution when handling nettles to avoid getting stung. If you do get stung, applying a soothing plant-based cream or a paste made from baking soda and water can help alleviate the discomfort.
History of Nettle Soup
Nettle soup has a long history in the United Kingdom and has been a traditional dish enjoyed by various communities for centuries.
In the UK, nettle soup gained popularity during times of food scarcity, particularly during World War II and periods of economic hardship. Nettles were readily available and provided a valuable source of nutrition when other food supplies were limited.
Nettle soup was often prepared using a simple recipe that incorporated fresh nettle leaves, water or stock, and basic seasonings. The leaves were carefully harvested, taking precautions to avoid the stinging hairs, and then washed and blanched to remove the sting. The blanched nettles were then cooked in a pot with the broth or water, along with onions, potatoes, and herbs for added flavor. The soup was typically pureed or blended to create a smooth consistency.
Nettle soup not only provided sustenance but also offered various health benefits. Nettles are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, as well as minerals like iron and calcium. They were believed to have cleansing and detoxifying properties and were considered a tonic for the blood.
In addition to its practicality during times of rationing, nettle soup has also been appreciated for its unique taste. The nettles impart a subtle earthy flavor to the soup, which is enhanced by the complementary ingredients.
Today, nettle soup remains a part of British culinary heritage and is still enjoyed by some. It is often seen as a seasonal delicacy, with nettle foraging gaining popularity in spring and early summer when the plant is at its peak. Modern recipes may incorporate additional ingredients and variations, such as cream, garlic, or even blending nettles with other vegetables.
Nettle soup serves as a reminder of the resourcefulness and creativity of the British people during challenging times, and it continues to be cherished as a comforting and nourishing dish in the UK.
Moving forward from scarcer times the nettle soup recipe has evolved to contain more luxury ingredients, although taking its heritage from the original, this recipe is far more luxurious and delicious.
Cream of Nettle Soup Recipe
350g young, washed Stinging Nettles (Leaves, no stalks)
2 Sticks Celery
1 Large Onion peeled and finely chopped
250ml of chicken or vegetable stock
100ml crème fraîche
Handful of Pumpkin Seeds for Garnish
Garlic Mustard Oil
50ml Rapeseed or Olive Oil
50g Garlic Mustard Leaves, washed
(Note: You can also make this recipe with Wild Garlic, simply replace the same amount of Garlic Mustard leaves with an equivalent amount of Wild Garlic).
Wash the Stinging Nettles well (use gloves!). Get a large pan on the stove and over gentle heat melt the butter. Finely chop your Onion, Celery, Carrot and add them to the pan with a pinch of Salt and sweat for five minutes (don't colour the vegetables you want them to sweeten, the onions will become translucent).
Now add the Stinging Nettles and allow the leaves to completely wilt, then add the stock and allow to simmer for 10 minutes - its this heat that destroys the sting in the nettles.
Whilst the nettles are simmering make your garlic mustard oil. This is so simple it is barely a recipe! Add your leaves and your oil to a blender and blend. Decant into a suitable container (one that you can accurately pour from and keep in the fridge) and that's it. It will keep for a week or so in the fridge and you'll end up finishing loads of dishes with it - my favourite is to finish mashed potato with the oil, however it also can be used as a dressing or even to make an amazing homemade mayonnaise.
Get nature inspired plates and bowls from our Cooking and Dining shop.
Back to the soup, once the 10 minutes have passed pour the soup into a clean blender and purée the stinging nettles until the mixture is smooth.
Return to the pan and stir in most of the the crème fraîche, add a good grating of nutmeg and correct the seasoning, soup done!
In a dry pan lightly heat the pumpkin seeds and gently toast.
To serve simply ladle the warm soup into a suitable bowl, now here's the bit that elevates it from good to wonderful! Using a teaspoon take the remaining crème fraîche and using the tip of the spoon lightly stir the top of the soup so that you get creamy white rings of crème fraîche on the surface. Now using a pourer and again in rings overlapping the crème fraîche add your garlic mustard oil - you don't need an oil slick, just some thin rings of this wonderful garlic flavoured oil. Finally sprinkle some of the toasted pumpkin seeds over the steaming soup and serve with warm bread and butter.. Who would have thought that health food could be so good!!
You might also like my Stinging Nettle Gnocchi recipe.