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Monday, August 17, 2009

Back on the Notment

I harvested a large batch of nettles the other day. After all the hard work a couple of weeks ago the nettles sprang back incredibly fast and are already a foot high again. I made an enormous quantity of nettle puree from the young tops. Did you know nettles contain more iron and more protein than spinach? It is very very rich, and I think better in small doses. They could be used more like a sauce or herb than a main vegetable. So I froze a lot of it as I doubt we can manage to get through it all.

My friend Anna reports a French recipe she tried recently that uses the nettles in a flan, with great results which I must try.

I also collected abundant amounts of Goog King Henry which has sprouted up on the cleared ground, and some dandelion leaves, for a salad.

There is a huge dock doing well and the herbs I've planted are taking too, the feverfew and calamint are seeming happy under their protective sheeps fleece mulch which works extremely well now that the foxes have lost interest in digging it up.

I've added sage, a mint, and some marjoram I found growing in the field, hoping they will take too. The reserve is full of blackberries and hawthorn now, but the plums all completely vanished so I missed out.

Nettle Puree Recipe
Big Pile of young nettle tops (if your nettles are old and straggly, cut them and pull them up and come back a week later to harvest the young shoots)
1 pint milk
3 oz butter
3 tbsp flour
3 oz meltable cheese (cheddar)

First rinse your nettles (wear rubber gloves!) and strip away leaves from larger stems as they are very stringy (older nettle stems can be used to make twine). Put the rinsed leaves in a pan to simmer in their own water, no need to add any - like spinach, the nettles shrink down and produce their own water.

Meanwhile make a white sauce using the usual technique. Melt the butter in a pan over a low heat, stir in the flour, slowly add milk a little at a time, always stirring, until you get the thickness and quantity you want.

When the sauce is ready you can put it aside while you use your blending machinery to puree, or at least partially puree, the cooked nettles. You may want to drain off the water from the nettles first if it is very dark and strong, although it can also help to make the sauce a little runnier and contains a lot of nutrition.

You can then start adding the sauce to the nettles and keep pureeing. When its nice and smooth, add the cheese and heat a little if needed to melt it all in. Season, and of course do experiment with your own white sauce and herbs.

This makes a very nice and exceedingly healthy sauce for jacket potatoes. You can go back next week for the next round of fresh nettle tops as well! Or do as I did and freeze the remainder sauce. The plastic containers from the indian takeway are ideal for freezing sauces.

I imagine it working well with fish too, espceially with some lemon or yoghut mixed into the sauce for some extra bite.

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