Spring is exciting – a combination of warmth and light gets plants, animals and human-animals going. Sometimes, for me, too going. The term mad march hare feels too close to home for me, as I prance around the hedgerows picking wild greens as if there…
Tag: Urtica dioica
Sea Spinach soup is a simple, delicious soup which celebrates this wonderful wild green. Creamy, filling and even dairy-free, perfect for a fresh, early spring al fresco lunch, or an autumnal or winter trip out along the coast, with a flask of tasty hot soup.…
Nettles, in a cake?! I know what you’re thinking – what a bizarre combination, and to be honest, even the kids were adamant they weren’t going to try it; “Yuk” – was apparently their response on their way to meet me. However, at a glorious Spring foraging walk, the whole big, green(ish) cake was devoured, and yes, the children were practically in it before it was cut, and ate every last smidgen.
“That’s possibly the best cake I’ve ever eaten” commented one participant – well even I was bowled over by that! So I thought it was time I shared the recipe with you.
I was brought up around baking – friday was baking day in our household, with cakes and snacks being made by mum for the coming week. Three hungry daughters, all with a sweet tooth – we were familiar with kneeling on chairs to stir large bowls of cake mixture, placing dollops in paper cases. Carefully ensuring a fair amount missed the cases for us to clean up with light fingers and sticky mouths.
As an adult, my love of cake making, and the alchemy of cooking has remained with me. I can’t boast my mother’s finely honed skills, though I can slowly line a cake tin, and since my teens have experimented with a broad range of cake recipes, from the classic sponge to sweetening with malt barley to adding wild twists.
Nettles, you may know, are a personal favourite of mine, and I’m always looking for new ways to incorporate them into both savoury and sweet dishes. Why miss out on their fabulous nutrition just because you favour cake over soup? No need I say, here’s the recipe. Based on a Devonshire honey cake, it’s rich, sweet in a wholesome way, and utterly, enjoyably cakey;
300g self-raising flour
250g clear honey
100g dark muscovado sugar
3 large eggs beaten
2 (gloved) handfuls of raw nettles
225g butter 300g self-raising flour 100g dark muscavado sugar
Weigh out the ingredients, next preheat the oven at 150°C, gas mark 2. Line a 20cm diameter cake tin with grease proof paper.
Lining a Cake Tin
Grease the sides and base of the tin with a little butter. Cut around the circle of the tin, with a couple of centimetres extra. Cut into the circle, just as far as the size of the tin base. Place inside, folding the paper up where the cuts are so they are rising up the tin sides. Do similar with measuring the cake sides, cutting into the edges again, and holding onto the base. You may need to add a little butter to the cut edges so the paper sticks to each other and holds the shape of the tin.
Using gloves, place nettles in a vegetable steamer (or saucepan with minimum water in) and steam or simmer for 5 minutes. Remove excess liquid (through a sieve or squeezing with a wooden spoon) and blend with a food blender, once blended, squeeze a little extra liquid out, though not too much that you remove all the flavour!
Raw Nettles Blended Nettles in Sieve
Next, break the butter into pieces & put in a pan with the sugar & honey. On a low heat, stir until melted, transfer contents into a mixing bowl,adding the nettle pulp & put aside to cool for 15-20 minutes.
Beat the eggs and add into the butter/sugar/nettle mixture, then stir in the flour. Pour into the cake tin & bake for about 1 hour 10-20 minutes.
Or until the cake is golden brown, springs back when pressed & a skewer pushed into the middle comes out clean. Remove & leave to cool a little before slicing. Delightful while still warm. Or until the cake is golden brown, springs back when pressed & a skewer pushed into the middle comes out clean. Remove & leave to cool a little before slicing. Delightful while still warm.
I’ve since updated this recipe, you can see my most recent version here; Spring dessert: Nettle and Honey Cake with Gorse Flower Syrup
It’s deep December and I’m standing outside. Actually, there’s 8 of us standing outside and waiting for the one that’s gone astray. Once we’re all congregated, we begin. There’s something innately quiet about walking in Winter, as if all around us is sleeping, and in…
How to remember & appreciate the mundane (and why we’re running ‘Nettle Days’).
In life & relationships it is all too easy to take for granted those that are close to us, to over-look our loved one’s qualities that we once fell in love with. Too easy to forget that they are amazing, loveable, admirable, desirable, shifting our focus instead onto their negative qualities & the things we’d like to change.
I feel it is the same with Nettles (Urtica dioica). We’ve got so used to seeing them – almost everyone knows what a nettle looks & feels like – that all we have left to say to them is rude & dismissing. Our modern culture tells us that foreign super foods are bigger & better, though Nettles are just as good & free! It’s time we rekindled our love for this plant – a local love affair because…
…nettles have always been there for us. A true native, growing & thriving through our British seasons, arriving, without fail, each spring – vibrant, potent & bursting with nutrition.
Oooh, but the sting! I hear you cry…
Oooh, but their always growing in the wrong place & a real pain to get rid of.
Well, those so-called negative qualities also have a flip side. Nettles sting to protect themselves – yes, they’re that valuable that they developed a protective mechanism. Their sting even contains the same compound as a bee sting – formic acid. The sting of the nettle has also been used to help relieve severe rheumatic pains & to help improve blood circulation (Culperer Herbal). As spring arrives the sting is even more virulent (I can still feel my fingers pulsating from my yesterday’s foraging!).
The ability of the humble stinging nettle to grow in abundance was of great use to our ancestors & is great for us too. Those long roots that are so difficult to dig up enable nettles to draw up the rich nutrition deep in the soil. Exuding with vitamin B2, C, E, K, iron, protein, magnesium, calcium, beta-carotene as well as other minerals. They’ve been used to treat anemia, rheumatism, arthritis & kidney disorders to name a few. All this makes nettles a fantastic food, hair tonic & herbal tea.
The thick, hardy stems contain strong fibres that have been used to make string & rope as well as practical & beautiful clothing. My favourite are delicate nettle shawls, see www.wildweaves.co.uk.
So to conclude, why would we want to get rid of this old love, for a new more exciting one? Why not re-ignite or even start your love for nettles; cherish their qualities, put on your best (nettle) clothes, eat (nettle soup), drink (nettle beer) & be merry! Nettles are our own, native super food. Available in abundance, on our doorstep, in hedgerows, fields & amongst the plants we so lovingly cultivate. Life is too short to chase the greener grass elsewhere, especially when the grass here is so rich with nettles!
Finally, are they tasty? Are they ever! Use like spinach, they’re great in lasagne, curry, soup, risotto, in falafel, gnoochi & make a great base for pesto (blanch the leaves first).
Wishing you a wonderful love affair… X