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The medicinal properties of the nettle combine with calcium rich Alaria and delicious fresh herbs to make a soup that tastes of the countryside.
Wear gloves and handle the nettle plants with care – they sting. Pick only the fresh young leaves at the top of the nettle. Never use a nettle that is in flower. Remove stalks and wash leaves.
• The humble stinging nettle grows wild in Ireland, and is often vastly undervalued for it’s health giving properties.
• Nettles are an ideal spring tonic rich in Vitamins B and C and beta – carotene as well as iron, chlorophyll and copper.
Seaweed used: Alaria
15 – 30cm (6 – 12 inch) piece Alaria, soaked for 30 minutes in just enough lukewarm water to cover it, chopped finely.
150 – 200g (5 – 7oz) young nettle leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil or 55g (2oz) butter
1 small or medium onion, chopped
250g (9oz) cooked parsnips, peeled and diced
900ml (11/2 pints) milk or rice milk
1 teaspoon each of chopped fresh marjoram, sage and lemon thyme or half the amount if using dried.
1 dessertspoon fresh chopped lovage or half the amount if using dried.
2 teaspoons vegetable stock powder such as Marigold
1/2 – 1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons cream (optional)
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
To prepare the soup
1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and cook gently over moderate heat until transparent. Add the nettles, Alaria and soaking water and cook gently for about 10 minutes.
2. Add the parsnips, milk, herbs, vegetable stock powder and sea salt and simmer for another 10 minutes or until the parsnips are tender. Blend until smooth.
3. Ladle into bowls; add a dash of cream if using and some parsley.
If nettles are unavailable, use fresh spinach and grate a little nutmeg in towards the end of cooking.
Gaby Wieland is the author of Neantog Cookbook – Gaby’s Favourite Recipes.