Wild nettle soup
Bursting into new growth now, nettles have been used as food since at least the Bronze Age. Highly nutritious, they are an excellent source of vitamin C and iron. A simple way to enjoy fresh nettles is in a soup. To make: 400g of leaves and fine stems are picked, wearing sturdy gloves and with the forearms covered. Only the top few inches (4-6 leaves) of young stems are used, from plants growing away from roadsides and other sources of contamination. Tips of nettles which have begun flowering will be more coarse, so should be avoided. The nettles are thoroughly washed and any coarse stems discarded. In a large pan, 30g butter is melted, then 1 chopped onion, 1 finely chopped leek, 2 sliced celery stems and 1 large sliced floury potato are added and cooked gently for 10 mins. Once soft, 1 litre of vegetable stock is added and simmered for 10 mins. The nettles are then added, and stirred as they wilt, cooking for 5 mins. The mixture is blitzed with a hand blender, before being seasoned well. It is served with a swirl of double cream.