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.

Wild garlic flower

Wild garlic

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
Chicken stock
Crème fraiche
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.

Nettle and wild garlic soup

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."

Further reading:

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


Caitlin @ Roaming Tales said...

"Cooking spring" - I love it! There is just something so romantic about foraging. Mushrooming in autumn has a similar effect.

Marc @ NoRecipes said...

Mmmmm, nettle and garlic are one of my favourite combos. I made a stinging nettle and ramp soup last spring. Your version looks springy and delicious!

Dan said...

Lovely post Browners - capturing the British countryside at springtime perfectly. I also love the 'just cook it' throw it together style recipe. Excellent, very inspiring stuff!

Jonathan said...

@Caitlin - There are few things in life as rewarding as foraging. I'm now looking into doing some foraging in Sweden. I imagine they must have amazing mushrooms here.

@Marc - I had ramps once at Alinea in Chicago and they were delicious. But I've never found them in Europe. Delighted you like the post.

@Dan - The Just Cook It posts are really great. There's something very satisfying about making nettles taste nice when they are such vicious things.

shayma said...

bung it all in a pan- i love that aspect of this dish. and nettles, adore them. hope youre having a great time in Sweden.

Jonathan said...

@Shayma - It's a great dish. Sweden is going well. Enjoy Istanbul. Unfortunately Korfez has shut since we went there. No idea why. But I'm sure you'll find somewhere else to go. Ask @Thomasinamiers on twitter. She's just got back from a trip there.

Helen said...

Gorgeous! And cheap! We like cheap.

Jonathan said...

@Helen - Very cheap. Pretty much free. Apart from the butter, potato and onion.


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