Some of you may know I’ve been trying to track down nettles recently – stinging nettles, to eat. Why nettles? Well, why not! I can’t say I’ve ever eaten them before and I certainly haven’t cooked with them, so I was keen to see what they were all about after a Nettle pasta recipe from 101 Cookbooks landed in my inbox.
Stinging nettles are high in vitamins and minerals and in some cases, used in medicinal treatments. If you’re cooking with them, treat them like you would spinach – adding it to omelets, stews and soups etc. Although the leaves do have stinging qualities (make sure you wear gloves when handling them), blanching them in hot water actually neutralizes their stinging power.
Alas, I’ve had no luck finding nettles – the dried version yes, but I want the fresh stuff. I don’t think it’s nettle season – And I’m still trying to find out when is. So today I stumbled across some lovely purple kale and thought it the perfect substitute for my nettles. I love kale, especially curly kale, for no reason other than it’s more fun, especially when it’s purple. *yes I’ve enhanced the colour of the next photo slightly, but in my mind, this was the fabulous vision of purple I saw at the fruit & veg market*
I’ve adapted this very simple pasta recipe slightly from Heidi Swanson, cooking the pasta in the same water as the kale which stained it a beautiful bright purple. This is a light but really hearty vegetarian dish that might even be a great way to get kids to eat their greens!
I’ve included the original Nettle pasta recipe below, in case you have more luck than me finding them.
Nettle pasta (by Heidi Swanson)
Serves 4; Prep time: 5 minutes; Cook time: 15 minutes
170-225 g stinging nettles*
225 g small dried pasta (orecchiette, orzo)
extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
Big handful of toasted almond slices
3 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Handful of onion sprouts
Feta cheese, crumbled – as much or as little as you like
Fine grain sea salt
– Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt well, as you would for pasta water, and add the nettles straight from the bag so as not to get stung (or use gloves to handle them). Boil until the nettles wilt, just 20 seconds or so, then use a slotted spoon to remove the nettles from the pot. Run under cold water, drain well, then strip the leaves from any big stems. Chop the leaves into a paste
– In the meantime, bring the nettle water back to a boil, add the pasta, and boil until just tender. Reserve a cup of the nettle water, and drain the pasta
– Place the pasta pot back on the burner over medium-high heat, adding 1/2 cup (120 ml) of the reserved pasta water, a splash of olive oil, and the chopped garlic. Bring to a simmer, the add the pasta and chopped nettles. Add more pasta water if needed. Stir well, and add most of the almonds and sesame seeds. Taste and add more salt if needed. Remove from heat and stir in most of the onion sprouts before turning out into a bowl. Serve family-style topped with feta, the remaining almonds, sesame seeds, and sprouts, drizzled with olive oil
*Use gloves when handling raw stinging nettles. A quick blanch in boiling water will neutralize their stinging power