SPRING NETTLE SOUP
by Stefan Gates
There's always a little frisson of fear when you put the first spoonful of nettle soup to your lips, no matter how many times you may have tried it. The sting is, of course, neutralized by boiling the nettles—although it's always more fun not to tell your friends and family this.
I think that nettle soup tastes a little like liquid grass—in a good way. It certainly has an uplifting effect, mainly because I only eat it in spring, just as summer is becoming a possibility once more. Be careful if you make this any later in the year; I've had several batches ruined by the bitterness of more mature nettles. You're really looking for new shoots that are only a few inches high. Make sure you collect them from an area that's unpolluted and unsprayed. Oh, and remember to wear gloves!
• a large carrier bag, packed with freshly picked, new-growth spring nettles
• 1/4 cup butter
• 1 large onion, finely chopped
• 1/2 lb peeled potatoes, roughly chopped
• 1 quart light vegetable or chicken stock (a good bouillon cube dissolved in water is fine)
• salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 cup creme fraiche
• fresh crusty bread and butter, to serve
Pick through the nettles and discard stems, flowers, and bugs. Wash the nettles thoroughly in cold water, then put them in a colander to drain.
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the onion, and cook over low heat until soft and golden. Add the potatoes and nettles and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce die heat and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Process the soup in a blender, then add salt and pepper to taste.
Divide the soup between four warmed bowls, add a dollop of creme fraiche to each, and serve with bread and butter.