The first nettle shoots and the very tender new leaves are great in many different dishes. This hearty soup can be made without bacon if you want a vegetarian version. Simply replace bacon with a little butter or oil to sweat the vegetables in.
Cooking the nettles in any way will disarm the sting. Use a cloth or a glove when picking the leaves, and choose small new leaves for your cooking. Wash the leaves thoroughly before chopping them up.
This recipe also has fresh ramsons, which is a spring herb. You can leave out fresh ramsons or replace it with dried ramsons.
Nettle Soup (4 people)
1 good handful bacon
1-2 onions, finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 parsnip, diced
1 carrot, diced
½ celery root, diced
1 handful ramsons, chopped
1 litre fresh nettle shoots, chopped
1.5 litre water or stock
Cook the bacon in a heavy bottomed pot until it starts to turn golden. Add the onions and garlic cloves and sweat until the onions become soft and clear. Then add the root vegetables, thyme, ramsons and nettles to the pot and stir. Cover the pot and let the whole mixture sweat and soften for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Pour in the water or stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 45 minutes.
Taste the soup and add salt if needed. It depends on the bacon and whether you're using water or stock.
Serve the hot nettle soup with freshly baked bread.
If you want an even heartier soup, add 150 ml pearl barley a little after you pour in the stock. It needs about 30 minutes to become tender.