Our Noble Interest of this week has been in the cook's pot far longer than the cook has been in the kitchen.

This recipe is one of the earliest recipes humankind was using. I've copied this recipe directly to here only because it was so far down on its page. This is a lovely site! Please do go have a look at it.

Nettle Pudding

From about 6,000BC. Start by picking the nettles, carefully, using only the small, young ones, as they grow more bitter with age. Wash the nettles one by one, to remove soil and insects (note: Acetylcholine and histamine are the primary nettle toxins; the latter causes dermal vesiculation. Formic acid was formerly thought to cause the persistent stinging action but it is now only associated with the initial pain at contact).

Cooking Time: 10-15 mins

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of sorrel
  • 1 bunch of watercress
  • 1 bunch of dandelion leaves
  • 2 bunches of young nettle leaves
  • Some chives
  • 1 cup of barley flour
  • 1 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Chop the herbs finely and mix in the barley flour and salt
  2. Add enough water to bind it together and place in the centre of a linen or muslin cloth
  3. Tie the cloth securely and add to a pot of simmering venison or wild boar
  4. Leave in the pot until the meat is cooked
  5. Serve with chunks of barley bread

Alternative Method:

  • ½ a basket of nettles (approx 250g)
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 50g butter
  • 2-3 handfuls of oatmeal
  • 1 tsp salt

Nettles haven't just been in continual hot water since then – they've been in the oven, too. Nettles can be worked quite nicely into breads, both risen and flat. Try this medieval adaptation of nettle rye bread  or this nettle pancake recipe,  which seems more like a crepe than a pancake to me.

Possibly descended from an ancient Roman sauce called “moretum”, Nettle pesto  is equally at home in modern kitchens. Sautèed nettles  is another dish that is simple and flavorful. The sautè is flexible enough to allow for experimentation. Use this tasty version as a start and then be bold! Both recipes can be frozen for later use.

While there is discussion on the matter, rice seems to have been introduced into Italy by the Arabs during the Middle Ages. Risotto was a happy result of this. Try a twist on the usual recipes and make a Nettle risotto. 

If fresh nettles are out of season try using dried nettles, either purchased or your own home-dried. Experiment with what works for you. A dried nettle pasta recipe will help you get started. 

How about a refreshing nettle beer to wash it down with?

To finish your meal - nettle sorbet! (and a few extra recipes).

And if you're extra brave, extra hungry, and oh, so unwilling to cook tonight you can always head over to The Bottle Inn pub in Dorset and see what's on the menu for the contest

There are enough recipes out there to keep nettles on the table and the diners appreciative for at least a couple of days. Did I forget anything? Maybe appetizers. If you come across a recipe for a good one, please share with me in the comments below. I always enjoy trying a new one. Thanks for stopping by.

Tomorrow's Knowings of the Leech will try to cover all of the medicinal benefits that this plant is known for.

Leave a Reply