Nettle soup

In an earlier post I said I’d share any good nettle recipes on the blog. Here’s the first. I haven’t been able to convince anyone else in the house to eat it (though both girls have tried it) but don’t let that put you off. I really like it and have made two lots so it must be good.

If I worked out how much this soup cost to make I think it would be about £1 and it makes about 5 good sized portions.

So for this recipe you need 150g nettle heads (picking the top two tiers of leaves with either gardening gloves or kitchen rubber gloves on) it works out to be about 40 nettle heads (in case you want to pick some when you’re out and about and don’t happen to have scales on you).

There’s something quite satisfying about foraging your own food for free.

nettle soup
nettle soup
You will need…
1 tablespoon organic butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 onion diced
1 medium sized carrot diced
1 leek sliced
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 litre vegetable stock
50g dried red lentils rinsed
150g nettle tops

How to…
Thoroughly wash the nettle tops and put to one side.
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
Sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes with lid on until softened.
Add the lentils, stir well and cook for a couple more minutes.
Add the vegetable stock and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the washed nettle tops.
Stir through and simmer for 5 minutes at the most, till all the nettles are wilted.
Blend in a food processor or hand-blender and serve.

The only nutrition data for nettles I could find is for nettles in the States so, not sure whether it’s equivalent for the UK but it gives a useful indicator of nutrient levels. So based on this data, a 400ml portion of soup will give you about 15% of your recommended daily calcium intake, around 12% of your vitamin A intake for the day, more than enough Vitamin K and about 10% of your recommended fibre intake.

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Dairy and gluten free fish pie

I thought that I would try to make a dairy and gluten free version of fish pie as have met so many mums who’s children have diary/gluten allergies or intolerances. I road-tested it this afternoon and it went down well. The eldest didn’t say it tasted of coconut or weird. The 16 month old was more interested in my nettle soup but that’s just because she’s being fickle at the moment. You can include prawns for extra flavour but they’re not recommended for younger children just in case they cause food poisoning.

dairy free glut free fish pie

You will need…

Fillet of white fish like dab, coley or haddock (about 300g)
Wild* (or if you can’t find wild then organically farmed) salmon fillet (about 100-140g)
1 carrot chopped
1/2 an onion whole
a few peppercorns
Bayleaf
40g vegan unhydrogenated spread
40g gluten free flour**
400ml coconut milk drink***
Handful of frozen peas
About 500g potatoes
Handful of fresh chopped parsley or teaspoon of dried parsley

How to…

Put the fish fillets in a heavy bottomed pan and cover with the coconut milk.
Add the chopped vegetables, peppercorns and bay leaf.
Bring to the boil and then turn off the heat and put the lid on so the fish is poached in the milk and the flavours of the fish and vegetables infuse the milk.
Strain the milk and dispose of the vegetables.
Put the fish fillets to one side.

Potato topping
Boil the potatoes until soft then drain, mash and add about 20g of the vegan spread and a little of the coconut milk if it needs loosening up.

Pre-heat the oven to about 190°c / 160°c in a fan oven or gas mark 5.

The roux
Melt the 40g of vegan spread in a pan.
Add the flour and combine and keep stirring, for a few minutes to cook the flour through.
Now start to add the milk from the fish infusion a little a time, combining with the paste completely before adding a little more.
It takes time and care, and if you get interrupted then it’s best to take the pan off the heat as if the sauce sticks to the bottom of the pan you can end up with a lumpy sauce (though if you do end up with a lumpy sauce you can pass it through a sieve).
Once it’s completely combined, keep stirring until it’s just about to start to boil.
If you’re using parsley then stir it in now.

Bringing it all together
Flake the fish by hand and carefully check for bones.
Now arrange the fish in the bottom of oven proof dish(es) then pour over the sauce.
You may not need to use all of it but don’t scrimp on it either.
Then sprinkle the frozen peas over the top.
Then add the potato, spread evenly and run a fork over the top of the potatoes to give ploughed effect that will brown nicely in the oven.

Put in the oven, on an oven tray to cook for about 20 minutes, til the top is nicely browned in places.

Serve with a portion of vegetables.

*Farmed salmon are not sustainable, they are kept in cages in the sea at high stocking density, see this article from Channel 4 on Hugh’s Fish Fight for more information. If you’re buying wild salmon too, buy from sustainable stocks as some are becoming depleted. Retailers have to label which part of the world the fish comes from, so you can check it against the Marine Conservation Society’s guidance.

**I used Dove’s farm gluten free flour though am sure that others would work just as well.

***This is not the coconut milk in cans but the milk alternative drink which is sold in cartons and has a thinner consistency.