Stinging Nettle (“urzici”) & Spinach Soup
This is one of those soups that you do really need after a long, cold, dark winter. Nettles contain so many vitamins and have so many health benefits that you might consider this a blood purifying elixir (and far more civilised than leeches). Apart from the obvious “pain” of picking them and then choosing nice young leaves there isn’t really much to it. The “sting” is deactivated by heat so dont expect a “fugu” like experience! However if pain is what you seek then a dose of “urtication” (flogging with nettles that was believed to relieve palsy and numbness of limbs) might be in order. Enough medieval medicine…this soup is definitely twenty first century and this version is gluten and dairy free.
We are very lucky that in Romania people still gather new season nettles and sell them in plastic bags at the market. Traditionally a puree is made much like (to me at least) the French “epinards aux oeufs” which is absolutely delicious. Now the problem with such virtuous food is that if you don’t do quite enough to it you are in danger of creating something that tastes like juiced roadside weeds. So I add quite a lot of onions and garlic, a generous amount of nutmeg and I thicken with potato or rice.
These are a guide and make quite a lot of soup. If you don’t have so many nettles use more spinach or throw in some courgettes or cabbage.
500g young nettles the stalks and anything that looks remotely “woody” removed
500g spinach – preferably proper spinach not baby spinach. cleaned and well rinsed of sand/earth if using the real thing
1-2 onions – I like a lot of onions
2-6 cloves of garlic. I go for the full 6.
nutmeg – approx 1 heaped teaspoon
a few sprigs of fresh thyme if you have
1 litre of vegetable stock (a good bio brand works well but so does some water, a bit of marmite and a little leftover wine)
1 large boiled potato or a cup of boiled white rice. If not GF sensitive some slices of old white bread gone stale.
I would suggest bay leaves as well but they will get lost in the green and blended bay leaves render the soup so bitter that its inedible. dont risk it! or write an anally retentive stickit on the kitchen wall to REMOVE BAY LEAVES before blending. personal experience and the bitter taste of (in this case literally).
Gadgets & Gizmos
A large saucepan and a hand held blender/ whatever blender you have
Chop the onions up roughly (its going to be blended so no masterchef perfection required here). Fry them in a little oil gently until translucent. Now add the also roughly chopped garlic. do not let it brown.
Add the nettles and the liquid. Boil 2-3 minutes until the nettles are just cooked. Now throw on top the spinach leaves and let them wilt for a further 3-4 minutes. Stir through until the leaves are all floppy and “just cooked” in fact almost still raw.
Add your chosen starch – you dont have to – I just like my soups a bit more substantial.
Now season with the nutmeg, salt and pepper.
Improvs & Ideas
I’ve served it with a chilli/red pepper oil in the photo but a simple drizzle of good olive oil is all thats needed really and a hunk of good bread.
Freezes well but what you want here is freshness and the joy of tasting new season’s produce