Romeo must die – well not really, it’s just what crossed my mind after I un-earthed the nettle on my balcony today. I didn’t think that would make a great title for a blog though. The stinging nettle and I have been living in happy co-existence for a long time. The nettle hails back to the time when I bought unsuitable but beautiful plants. Plants who loved lots of sun, humidity and the kinds of temperatures you get on Hawaii, plants that didn’t like frost or snow and promptly, and gracelessly died when the thermometer showed 30°C (minus, but that goes without saying…..). Undeterred I got more, different plants, rare gingers friends brought over from the UK in their cars, plants that although they were meant to survive our winters, I kept indoors, and these then died in different and other creative ways. The nettle however, wanted to be there, it came to me of it’s own free will. It grew and it flourished and so I welcomed it in my “plant”hold. Despite it’s reputation, it was very well behaved, it stuck chastely to it’s side of the container leaving the snap dragons to flower happily in the other corner. Until the fateful day I rearranged the balcony and re-potted the nettle with peonies, Artemisa abrotanum, anemones and some other plant Landkrauter gave me. At the same time I discovered fertilizer. My begonias are wonderful, the roses did well and all my other plants couldn’t stop growing, it was great. Nettles of course live a Cinderella-like existence, pre-fairy Godmother, and are not used to extra TLC, but they do appreciate it when they get it. Like someone who has been neglected too long the nettle selfishly managed to imbibe all the fertilizer. Forgetting it’s well mannered ways it started to behave more like an obnoxious drunk who has discovered attractive women in a bar. Women in a bar can generally leave, in my container the last man standing was the nettle. So today I decided to get rid of it, but it was a big plant, in full flower, the flowers had a lovely scent and the plant is edible so I decided to making stinging nettle flower syrup and nettle dumplings.
Nettle flower with a backdrop of Italian nobbly butternut pumpkin. Nobody Italian has ever seen one before but that’s what the pumpkin was sold as.
I got stung a couple of times in the process, but no pain no gain. I blanched the leaves making sure they were nicely wilted. And after all that work I ended up with 26g…..of blanched nettles….. I squeezed out excess water and chopped the nettle small and made dumplings.
Nettle (or spinach) dumplings ingredients, you could of course just make your life easier and use spinach: 200g ready cooked cold blanched spinach with all water squeezed out ( I used 26g of nettles which worked too, if you have 200g nettles use that, but if you go with 200g of spinach you will be in an easier place altogether). For spinach version: 200g spinach as described above, 25g melted butter, 200g of potatoes, boiled, leave to cool and mash with a fork, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg. For nettle version 26g nettles ready processed (this equals approx a quarter-standard size pillow case full of fresh nettle leaves….) 50g of farmers cheese (optional), 100g of potatoes, boiled, leave to cool and mash with a fork, 100g breadcrumbs, 1 egg, salt, pepper and freshly grated nutmeg.
MethodMethod: Mix egg, spinach (or nettles) and then add the rest of the ingredients, and season and then shape into dumplings, if you need to, add some more breadcrumbs. You can see that this too is a flick of the wrist type recipe. Shape into dumplings using about 2 tbsp s mixture per dumpling. Steam dumplings in a steamer on the stove around 10 minutes, you can also cook them in water, just below the boiling point, if you boil them they will disintegrate, trust me. After around 12 minutes when they are firm to the touch, put them into an oven proof dish, grate fresh Parmesan over the top and bake for around 15 minutes until the top is golden.
Serve with carrot, orange and gin soup: This is another one of those flick of the wrist deals. Cook carrots, around 1 lb (700g) in water until cooked, blend, put back into saucepan boil add orange juice (around 1/2 cup) and gin (around 1/2 tbsp) to taste, don’t overdo the gin, simmer a bit and then add salt and pepper and a couple of pinches of curry powder. You can also add cream if you like.
The combination of the green dumplings with their delicate nettle flavour with bold, bright orange carrot soup delicately flavoured with gin and orange was really lovely. We enjoyed a beautiful sauvignon blanc Matua Valley from New Zealand with our dinner, comes from the same area as the famous Cloudy bay, but is in a price range that means you might drink it just because you feel like it during the week.