A recipe from the spring.
I know that nettles are supposed to be tasty and nutritious and free, but I’ve always struggled with the recipes that I’ve tried, usually ending up with something that looks wrong. But the scent of blanched nettles suggests an affinity with gooseberries, elderflowers, mackerel, and a wonderful hint of spring. I was out foraging for seaweed on the day I made this. At the end of the walk, I scrambled up a bank of dried kelp and pebbles, then silverweed, and then a great abundance of freshly sprouting spring nettles.
When I got home, I blanched my pickings of nettle tops, and found I had 75g, enough to make myself a tasty wee risotto for one. You could easily multiply up for more.
- 1/4 mild onion, finely chopped
- 1 lovage sprig, finely chopped (leaves not the stem)
- 25g butter
- 75-100g blanched nettle tops, finely chopped
- 100g arborio rice
- 1 glass white wine
- 300ml hot vegetable stock (I used marigold bouillon)
- 1 oz parmesan, grated
- Salt and pepper
- Fry the onion in the butter until it is soft and nearly browning.
- Add the chopped nettles and chopped lovage, and stir in, frying, for a minute.
- Add the rice, keep stirring and frying, until the rice looks glazed and shiny.
- Pour in a glass of wine, and bring to the boil.
- Slowly add the stock, bringing to the boil and waiting until the stock is absorbed before adding more.
- Once the rice is tender, but still a little firm, add the salt, pepper and parmesan cheese. Stir in, cover, and leave to stand for 3 minutes before serving.
Could you serve fish with this? Not sure. It was very good on its own.
We had the usual debate through the late afternoon about what we might do for a meal, when the spouse mentioned that we had some squats, and I said that I liked risotto. We used Valentina Harris’s book, Risotto Risotto to give us the technical details. This is what we did.
- 1/2 an onion, finely chopped
- A lovage leaf (or a little bit of celery)
- 50g butter
- 200g arborio rice
- 1/4 bottle vinho verde (or any dry white wine)
- 500ml boiling hot vegetable stock
- 500g squats, cut in half (peeled weight)
- 25g freshly grated parmesan
- 1 tbsp finely chopped flatleaf parsley
- Salt and pepper
My rule of thumb, for a good sized portion per person I allow 75g rice and 225ml liquid. For a starter, 50g. This recipe depended on how much weight of squats we had, and we got three servings.
- Fry the onion in half the butter until soft, then stir in the risotto rice and lovage.
- If you are using celery, chop it finely and fry it with the onion.
- Stir the rice into the frying onion until it looks opaque and is hot. Then stir in the wine, then start adding the stock a little bit at a time, allowing each bit of stock to be absorbed before adding the next.
- With the last little bit of stock, add the squats. When the stock is fully soaked in, remove the risotto from the heat, and add the parsley, the rest of the butter and the parmesan, add any salt and pepper that is needed, and then cover. Leave the risotto to rest for a couple of minutes before serving.
One of my mother’s recipes from the 1970s.
- 1 grapefruit
- 2 tsp soft brown sugar
- 1 tsp butter
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- Cut the grapefruit in half, remove the pips and loosen the segments with a grapefruit knife.
- Mix the butter, sugar and spice together, and spread onto the grapfruit halves.
- Place under a hot grill for five minutes, to caramelise the sugar.
This sauce is good mixed with small pasta, or layered with lasagne and a bechamel sauce and baked. In fact, I bet you could mix it with small pasta and bake it. I have tried it two ways, once using some mystery chilli and herb seasoning that a relative bought back from Italy for me. I made a small quantity suitable for two or three people, so double this would be a really good lot of sauce sufficient to serve around six people.
Top tip discovered whilst doing this: One handful of small pasta weighs a good ounce. Three handfuls is one good-size portion of pasta. There are other versions of this classic sauce around: I found one in The Pasta Bible, and another on Allrecipes website
- 2 tsbs olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- A handful of fresh parsley (I used fresh flat-leaf parsley from the garden)
- 1 medium aubergine, diced
- 1/2 handful fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 tsp ground chilli (or use a small fresh chilli and add it with the garlic)
- 1/2 cup of boiling water
- Pinch of saffron
- 1/2 tsp marigold stock powder
- 1 tin chopped organic tomatoes
- 2 tbsp red wine
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- salt and pepper to taste
- (If you are using the mystery Italian seasoning from the holiday pack of pasta, use this in place of the parsley, chilli, basil and paprika, and add with the aubergines: I would suggests a heaped teaspoonful)
- Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, and add the garlic and parsley.
- Turn the heat to very low, squish the garlic with a wooden spoon, then cover and cook for about 10 minutes while you chop the aubergine. I got nervous about this, it seemed a long time, so I checked every so often, and took it off the heat once the garlic looked cooked.
- If you used a small whole fresh chilli, remove this now. Add the aubergines, chilli powder, basil, half the water, and cover to simmer for another 10 minutes.
- I put the marigold stock powder into the remaining hot water, along with the saffron and sugar and allowed this to infuse.
- After the 10 minutes is up, add the water, saffron, sugar, stock powder, wine and tomatoes, along with the paprika. Season to taste, cover and settle it to simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Once the sauce is cooked, put it somewhere safe, boil up the pasta of your choice, drain and then stir in the sauce.
- If you are using this for a baked pasta dish, stir in the cooked pasta, put it into an ovenproof dish, top with mozzarella, and bake for 20 minutes in a hot oven.
A Kookoo is a large omelette dish from Iran. It has a little flour and raising agent added, and it is baked in the oven, a bit like a Spanish frittata. It tastes wonderful, spiced and flavoured with herbs. It often has vegetables in it as well. This version is full of herbs from the garden, with spices and barberries, which I sourced from Seasoned Pioneers.
- 50g butter
- 5 eggs
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp advieh (Persian spice mix)
- freshly ground black pepper
- A pinch of salt
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1 cup of chopped herbs, to include chives, parsley, fennel
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 2 tbsp dried barberries
- Preheat the oven to 170C
- Melt the butter in an 8 inch frying pan or skillet that will go into the oven
- Break the eggs into a bowl, and lightly beat in all the other ingredients
- Pour the egg mixture into the pan and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes
Serve with salad and bread, possibly a little Greek yoghurt. A herb Kookoo is a traditional New Year dish, a taste of the start of spring.
I love the Moro cookbook. The recipes are simple and the flavours are bright and fresh. We had mushrooms and we had eggs so I followed their recipe. Just like you’d think, but better.
- 500g mushrooms, a mixture of wild and fresh if available, including porcini, chanterelles, etc. We used horse mushrooms
- 3 tbsp organic olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic
- 25g butter
- 6 organic free-range eggs, preferably local
- 3 tbsp milk
- 40g slice serrano ham, optional
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley
- salt and black pepper
- Clean and roughly chop the mushrooms.
- Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil, and when the oil is hot, add the crushed garlic. Fry it until it begins to colour.
- Immediately, add the chopped mushrooms and stir well. Fry for around 4 minutes
- Add the sliced ham at this point, if you are using it.
- Season with salt and pepper, and put the fried mushrooms aside in a bowl.
- In the same pan, melt the butter
- Meanwhile, break the eggs with the milk, and stir until the yolks are broken; the mixture should not be well mixed.
- Add the eggs to the melted butter and stir until the eggs begin to set
- Add the mushroom mixture and the chopped parsley, and continue to stir until the eggs are as cooked as you wish them to be. The white of the egg should be set.
Serve with toast.
This is an Elizabeth David recipe, and it is a classic. I made it because one lot of neighbours had grown some splendid green peppers in their polytunnel, and another lot have the most fantastic free-range eggs. This serves 2, but it is easy to scale up the recipe according to the availability of ingredients, or number of people to feed.
- olive oil
- One small onion, finely sliced
- 3 green peppers, cut into strips
- 1 can organic chopped tomatoes (or, even better, use 500g fresh locally grown tomatoes, skinned and chopped)
- 1 clove chopped garlic
- Salt, pepper
- 2 eggs, beaten
- Heat a generous amount of oil or dripping in a large frying pan, and then cook the sliced onion until it begins to turn yellow.
- Add the strips of green pepper, and cook on medium for up to 15 minutes.
- Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, garlic, and salt and pepper. Some people add a little basil at this stage as well.
- Cook until the tomatoes are in a pulp, and the mixture is good and thick.
- Add the beaten eggs and stir until the mixture begins to thicken, like scrambled eggs.
Serve on a heated dish. This is good with toast and bacon or ham.
Malcolm got this recipe from somewhere, no idea where. We had it tonight, cooked with beetroot from Maria’s vegetable box scheme.
- 400g raw beetroot
- 2 tbsp organic sunflower oil
- 1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 hot green chillies
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1/2 can organic chopped tomatoes
- A pinch of salt
- 100ml coconut milk
- juice of 1 lime
- Peel the beetroot, and cut into matchsticks (a mandolin is useful for this. Or just cut it up as small as you can)
- Heat the oil in a large saucepan, and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start jumping, add the onion, garlic and chillies. Fry on medium heat until the onion is tender.
- Add the spices and the beetroot, fry for a further two minutes and then add the tomatoes, 250ml water and a pinch of salt.
- Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the beetroot is tender.
- Add the coconut milk and let it simmer for another couple of minutes, until the sauce has thickened.
- Stir in the lime juice, adjust the seasoning, and serve with rice.
For this Indian recipe, you should really use fresh coconut, but if I’ve ever bought a coconut here, it has not been that good. I’ve substituted coconut milk.
- 6 tbs mustard oil or other vegetable oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp whole black mustard seeds
- A large green cabbage, around 1.5kg, cored and finely shredded
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 fresh hot green chilli, in fine long strips
- 50g grated coconut or 100ml coconut milk
- Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium to high heat
- Add the mustard seeds and bayleaf, and as soon as the bayleaf starts to darken and the mustard seeds start to pop, add the cabbage
- Turn the heat to medium, then stir and cook for around five minutes.
- Add the sugar, salt and chilli, and continue to stir and cook for a further three to five minutes
- Turn off the heat, add the coconut, mix and serve.