I’ll have to admit, when faced with the challenge of cooking nettles, I felt a little nervous. If you’ve ever been stung by one you’ll know what I mean. Though they have a great nutty flavor when cooked, nettles leave some nasty little welts when they’re raw. I’ve been told that nettles are really high in protein and iron, especially for a leafy green.
I did a little research, and found out that nettles are great in creamy soups. My potted herb garden has been going kind of crazy outside, so I needed to trim it, and I decided to throw those in the mix with the stinging nettles. The sweet man from Mona Farm got me hooked on the idea of quail eggs, and my boyfriend suggested throwing in a few chunks of potatoes and a recipe was born.
For those of you new to nettles, they’re fairly abundant in New England. I’ve found a few at the farmers markets, and got my first bundle from Live Free Farm, but you can also forage them in field areas. I found a nice blog post on the subject for those interested in finding them, themselves. http://and-here-we-are.blogspot.com/2013/03/foraging-for-nettles-its-fun.html
DO NOT handle the nettles without gloves. I can’t emphasize this enough. Once they’re cooked the chemical that stings steams off, but prior to that you can get really painful surprises.
I decided to add in the quail eggs mainly because of the wonderful man from Mona Farm, and the fact that I love quail’s eggs, but I never know what to do with them. After trying them in soup I am happy to say they make a nice alternative to dumplings.
Spring Nettle and Root Vegetable Soup with Poached Quail Eggs
- ½ lb of Nettles (When I originally tested this recipe, I got them from Live Free Farm, however I ran out of those and bought the batch for this recipe from Osprey Cove Organic Farm & Stone Wall Farm)
- ¼ lb of Herbs (I used a mix of Chocolate Mint from New Roots Farm and Thai Basil and Purple Basil from Aspen Hill Farm. But this is flexible.)
- Olive Oil
- Knob of Butter
- 2 Shallots (Meadow’s Mirth Farm)
- 4 Cloves Garlic
- 1 lb Potatoes (Some for the broth and some for chunks to add in. I bought some plainer looking fingerlings from Meadow’s Mirth, and then some lovely purple potatoes from Meadow’s Mirth and Heron Pond Farm. I used about ¾ of a pound in the first part of cooking, and ¼ for the rest. I encourage you to sub in other root veggies, however I personally found a hard time getting turnips soft enough to serve with the rest of the dish.)
- 4 cups Water or Chicken Stock
- 2 cups Raw Milk (We have ours delivered from Huckens Farm.)
- 4 Tbs Raw Honey
- 2 Tbs Ground Cloves
- 1 tsp Caraway Seeds
- A quarter of a wedge of Lacey White Goat Cheese from Hickory Nut Farm (Or some other really bitter aged semi-soft cheese)
Add the water and bring it up to a rolling boil. Drop the nettles and herbs in the water and let them boil for just a few minutes before bringing the water down to a simmer. Let simmer until the potatoes are completely soft.
(For this next step I used an inversion blender, however you can also use a regular blender or a food processor. Inversion blenders are awesome for soup however.) Blend all the ingredients until you’re left with a smooth broth. At this point don’t expect it to be too thick. Add salt to taste. Leave on low simmer throughout.
Chop up the rest of the shallots, garlic, and potatoes. It’s fine to leave the skin on these potatoes. In another pan pour a little olive oil and sautee the rest of the ingredients. Cook for about 20 to 30 minutes until the potatoes are nice and soft. Pour them into the nettle and cream broth and combine.
Poaching the Quail Eggs
- In a small saucepan bring three cups of water to a ROLLING boil. Quail eggs can be a little tricky, but the man from Mona Farm taught me a trick. Get a serrated knife and cut off the top of the egg like removing a little hat. Once removed, pour the yolk and white out into a ladle.
Gently slide the egg into the boiling water and off the ladle. As soon as the white turns opaque the egg is ready to come back out. Because you’re serving them in hot soup its ok for them to be slightly under poached. They can be kept in a dish half full of water for up to 24 hours, if you want to serve them later.
Poach three to five eggs per bowl of soup, depending on how many people you’re serving. Once the eggs are poached, ladle the soup into bowls, plop the quail eggs in with the soup and enjoy! I find this dish goes very nicely with a bright salad!