Apart from blackberries, I've never been much of a forager, but whilst clearing up the "invisible" bit of garden behind our veg plot this morning I found the most enormous stand of stinging nettles. Great for your compost heap, of course, but even better as free food and full of vitamin C.
Now's the perfect time of year to make nettle soup, as there are loads of fresh new leaves. Here's a really easy recipe. It makes 2 generous "main course" portions.
Wearing gloves, use scissors to cut the top half of about 20 nettle stems. (They will grow back and in a few weeks' time you can do it again.) Rinse in cold running water and shake off excess water. Still wearing gloves, cut or pull off all the leaves and discard the main central stem.
Put the leaves into a big bowl or saucepan and, prodding them down with a spoon, pour over just enough boiling water to cover them. (You have now removed the sting) Swirl the leave around in the water for 20-30 seconds until they go limp. Fish them out with a slotted spoon and put to one side until later.
Don't chuck away the water! Pop in a GF stock cube (chicken or veggie) and make it up to about a pint or half a litre of stock (this is all very approximate - it's soup, no need to stress on measures!)
Peel and chop up a couple of potatoes and an onion. In a different (dry) saucepan, either non-stick or a heavy cast-iron type, slowly fry the veg in a fat of your preference (I used salted butter) for a few minutes so they start to soften without browning.
Now pour in the stock and cook slowly for another 5-10 minutes, until the potatoes are fully cooked. Add the nettles and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
Use a handheld "stick blender" in the saucepan if you have one, or puree the soup in a food processor, before adjusting the seasoning to suit your tastes - I added ground black pepper and some garlic flakes.
Finally add a couple of tablespoons of cream if you like... we do!
We haven't tried it yet but we can imagine the slightly broccoli-ish flavour of nettles would be really yummy with some crumbled Stilton lobbed in the bowls as it is served. Next time!!