Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Wild Garlic and Nettle Soup
At this time of year the gnarled and dappled roads of Somerset become a multisensory treat. The shadows become tinged with iridescent blue and speckled with bursts of pristine white. And the air becomes fragrant with the smell of sweet wild garlic. In Cowie’s parents’ garden the apple blossom is readying itself like confetti at a wedding and the leaves all around are fluttering into life. I don’t think there is a time of the year more imbued with positivity.
After harrowing a field and helping with a bonfire I just had to cook “spring”. This is a slightly odd thing to say, but like the psychopath in Perfume, I was overtaken with an urge to capture the essence of spring in Somerset. So I walked into the hedgerow wearing some gloves (I wasn’t naked by the way), carrying a plastic bag and started harvesting nettle tips and wild garlic like a hyperactive tea picker. A few stings later and my carrier bag was overflowing with greenery and dainty, milk white flours.
I didn’t bother with a recipe and just let the bundle of greenery guide me and was rewarded with a vivacious green soup that cost virtually nothing to make but tasted luxuriously of spring itself. Use your judgement with the quantities.
1 carrier bag full of nettles
Half a carrier bag of wild garlic leaves and flowers
1 diced potato
Knob of butter or olive oil
1 sliced onion
Salt and pepper
Wash the nettles and wild garlic thoroughly. You’ll find all sorts of creatures in your soup otherwise! Then sweat your onion and potato in a large cast iron saucepan until the onion is beginning to turn golden and the potato is softening. Then add in your chopped wild garlic leaves. The kitchen will be overwhelmed with the sweet aroma of garlic at this point. Then add your nettles and watch them wilt like grown up spinach. After a minute or two add your stock and simmer for 10 minutes until the leaves have turned soft and the liquid is looking like soylent green.
Once you are happy that the vegetation is cooked remove from the heat and blend to a smooth, green consistency. Allow to cool for a bit then pass it through a grinder in order to take away any graininess. If you haven’t got one don’t worry, this step is not strictly necessary, but does improve the texture.
When you are ready to serve simply reheat, season aggressively with both salt and pepper. Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche, a dusting of Parmesan cheese and most importantly a scattering of wild garlic flowers which add a gentle garlic burst to this soulful bowlful of spring.
It’s one of my favourite soups and is well worth every single sting! Some warm bread, slathered in cold, salty butter would top this off a treat. As would a crouton anointed with early season goats cheese. Robert McIntosh (Thirst for Wine and Wine Conversation) suggests washing this down with "something like a Vinho Verde or a spritely Chenin Blanc."
Mark Hix on Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup in The Independent
Hugh F-W on Nettle and Wild Garlic Soup in The Guardian
Nigel Slater's Nettle and Wild Garlic recipes in The Guardian
Just Cook It on Nettles