Zuppa di ortica e asparagi
Nettle and Asparagus Soup
You can actually leave the asparagus out and go full nettle, but the asparagus adds a nice seasonal touch and goes nicely with the nettles flavour-wise. It seems like quite an outlandish thing to do (making soup out of stingy nettles), but honestly once you’ve done the picking, it’s really simple to make and has a special flavour. Nettles actually taste nothing like they look. They appear sharp and grassy, but they have an incredible full, rich, and even creamy flavour. Give this a go - nettles are bloody everywhere, and they’re free. FREE FOOD!
A few notes on nettle picking. Wear gloves. I repeat, wear gloves. Secondly, avoid nettles next to main roads (we don’t want a car fume flavour to our soup), or where dogs might have relieved themselves. When you do the picking, leave the stem and just pick off the actual leaves. Lastly, the best time of year for this is Spring, they are sweetest and most tender right now.
- About 200-300g nettle leaves (don’t worry too much about exact weights - think two large salad bowl’s worth. It might take you half an hour to pick this amount but the fresh air will do you good!)
- Small bunch of asparagus, roughly chopped
- Good glug of extra virgin olive oil
- Knob of butter (oil for flavour, butter for richness)
- 1 large potato, cut into cubes
- 2 medium onions, sliced
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- Good handful grated Parmesan cheese, extra for garnish
- Fresh chives, for garnish
- Salt and pepper
- Poached egg (optional)
1 Give your nettles a good rinse in the sink, then drain as best you can (this is the tricky bit as you have to keep your gloves on while washing them!)
2 Fry the onions in a deep pan with the oil and butter for 5 minutes, or until really soft and starting to brown.
3 Throw in the nettles, asparagus, potato and stock, and cook for 30 minutes.
4 Add the Parmesan cheese and blend well with a stick blender. Season well with salt and pepper and serve in bowls, garnished with chives, a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. You can also serve with a poached egg!