Saturday, May 7, 2011

Super Simple Stinger Soup - Nettle, Wild Garlic and Sea Coriander Soup

Well, it's really getting seasonal now, as the dandelions die off, that's the pesto and syrup done.
The next plant to show itself is the common nettle, and it makes for a great soup, light enough for early summer but rich enough to create a really nice lunch or starter.
The nettle is generally regarded as a weed or a nuisance, but before you go in with poison or strimmers its a simple soup well worth trying.

Like the dandelion recipes, nettles are ideal for foraging, they are not poisonous and cannot be mistaken for other plants. 
The only thing to watch out for is I would not recommend picking from busy road sides as nettles may have been sprayed with chemicals by the council and general contamination by vehicle exhausts. 
Cooking nettle soup is not unlike collard greens in a way, which is another great dish this time of year.

Sea coriander is a plant I forage locally, I don't know what it is called properly. The stalk and little green berry heads taste of lime and coriander.
To replace this ingredient, simply use a tablespoon of chopped coriander leaf, just as good.
The other wild plant I like to use, when I can find it, is wild garlic or ramsons.  
It is worth noting that Ramsons when the plants are very young are very similar to Lilly of the valley, which is poisonous. If in doubt crush a leaf between your fingers and there should be a Chive / Garlicy aroma. The Ramsons are easy to spot when in bloom because of their distinctive star like white flowers.

There is also grated horseradish in the soup. You can of course use horseradish sauce, and if you feel like having a little fun with the soup, add more horseradish to give the soup extra heat and kick, it can quite worry people trying nettle soup for the first time, and there is no need to tell them that spicy kick is the radish, they will assume its the nettle.

For stock in this recipe I would recommend Connemara Lamb, although you can use veg or chicken if you wish. 
Its a simple stock to make, details can be seen on the Lebanese Lamb posting.

Connemara lamb is in season since Easter, it is delicious, widely available and this is a great meal to stretch a few Euro, by using bones in the stock from leg and cutlets that normally might be discarded. 
I source most of my meat from McGeough's in Oughterard, west of Galway. At this stage it's automatic that the Easter leg and Christmas turkey, duck or goose are boxed up and ready even before I walk into the shop.
Our family no longer even places an order, its just done. In actual fact, I think the only reason I would call in relation to an order would be to cancel in case no one's home!
Connemara lamb one of only four recognised, protected, designated Irish foods in the EU.
This very important designation is an assurance of quality, traceability and origin.
It allows artisan producers to compete with corporate producers, the system is wide spread on the continent.
The UK for example has dozens of recognised food and beverages.

Here it is an utter disgrace that it is left up to private individuals and small companies to gain recognition for some of our unique foods despite our very well paid civil servants in the department of agriculture and semi-states like bord bia. 
Essentially, because of the failure of the civil service to do more work in this area, foods like Clonakilty Black Pudding and Irish Cream can be made and marketed by anyone, anywhere.

Connemara Lamb is a native breed, the Connemara Blackfaced Horned. It matures at a slower rate, the  result is a lamb of specialised taste, quality and flavour from a diet of natural herbs, heathers and grasses unique to Connemara.
This gives a lean carcass, rose red in colour, solid deep texture with a light cover of fat and that produces a natural succulent flavour with a very pronounced aroma.
For more details see
Anyway - on with the food.

So obviously, the first thing you need to do is collect younger nettles, but they don't need to be that small.
Do this re-using an old plastic shopping bag and a pair of good rubber gloves.
Then strip the nettle stalks of their leaves. The used stalks can be set aside and used as a fertilizer for the kitchen garden plot.
I had about 300 gms of nettle leaves for this soup, but the more you get in the better really.
After that, its a very straight forward and simple soup.
1 Litre Connemara Hill lamb stock (or substitute vegetable or chicken stock)
300 gm or more nettle leaves
Knob of Cuinneog Butter
Salt and pepper to season.
2 tablespoon's of wild garlic leaf green is you can find it 
- or substitute 1 clove garlic, crushed or garlic chives - .
1 Onion, finely diced
1 Tblsn Sea Coriander berries 
or substitute with finely chopped coriander with a pinch of lime zest
1 Tspn Horseradish, finely grated (more if you want extra sting in your nettle soup)

Put the butter into a heavy based pan and heat up.
Add onion, garlic, horseradish, and if desired bacon, to the pan.
Cook until onion softened and translucent.
Next add the nettle leaves and sea coriander berries to the pan.
Keep stirring the nettles and reduce them as you would with spinach.
Try and give them all a coating with the oils from the bottom of the pot.
Next add your stock and bring to the boil, reduce and allow to simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Then blitz with a food processor, return to pan and allow to simmer for another 10 minutes
I would normally serve with some creme fraiche, but did not have any so I just used a small round of goats cheese on top and some soda bread on the side.
 It really does not get simpler than that for a very handy little recipe.
The recipe re-heats well so can be made well in advance, it's also good for freezing.

As always if you find the recipe of use or have any comments, please do leave some feedback - I really appreciate the time and effort you take to do so


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  1. Thanks for sharing! I'm tempted to give this a go, just so long as I dont get stung in the process!

  2. A Pair of rubber gloves for washing dishes and a long sleeved shirt should assuage all worries

  3. It looks amazing. A friend of mine was telling me just the other day that her grandmother swore by nettle soup. Time to hit the local park, I think... Thank you!

  4. I think I may have found sea coriander, but I'm not sure.

    Is that it? It wasn't flowering or seeding so I only have the fact that it smells of coriander and is growing on the seashore.


  5. For those like me who were wondering just what "sea coriander" is, the plant is better known as Sea Arrowgrass (Triglochin maritima).


Thanks for commenting - its cool that you took the time