I had to hurry up and use my stinging nettles before they went bad so we made the Irish nettle soup from current of issue of Saveur last night. This was my first experience with nettles and I'd agree with warnings about avoiding close contact with the stinging prickly plant. Handle with tongs to hold the plant, scissors to snip off the leaves, and sloooowww motions while moving it around the kitchen.
The nettle soup was rich and elegant. It combined the sweetness of potato, onion and leek, the subtle celery-flavored lift of nettles, meaty depth of duck stock, and tart note of lemon. Nice and smooth, esp. with a little creme fraiche swirled in at the end.
2 T butter
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
7 c duck stock or 5 T glace de canard dissolved in 6 1/4 c hot water
2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 leek, trimmed, white and light green parts only, washed and chopped
3 c young nettle tips and tender leaves (tightly packed), about 1/4 lb
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 T fresh lemon juice
In a medium size pot, melt butter and add onions. Cook until soft, about 6-8 minutes. Add potatoes, leeks, and duck stock. Raise heat until simmering. Turn down heat to med-low and cook until potatoes are softened (15 min). Next add nettles and salt & plenty of pepper. Raise heat to medium and cook 5-7 minutes until nettles are soft.
Using a blender with a towel over the lid, carefully blend the soup in small batches for 2-3 minutes until smooth. Reheat all the pureed soup on the stovetop. Pour in lemon juice and taste for seasoning. Swirl in cream if desired.
I'm not sure how authentic this Irish Soda bread is but Mr. Creosote found the recipe in Time-Life's Foods of the World, Cooking of the British Isles (1973) and they're usually pretty reliable. It was rustic, fluffy, wet-crumbly in the middle, with a thin crisp crust. Flavor was like a big biscuit with a slight tang from the buttermilk. Nice slathered with Kerrygold's Irish butter.
Irish Soda Bread
one 8-inch round loaf
1 T butter, softened
4 c all-purpose flour
1 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 to 1 1/2 c buttermilk
Preheat oven 425. Line a baking sheet with a silpat or brush the sheet with the tablespoon of butter.
In a big bowl, sift together flour, soda and salt. Slowly add 1 c of buttermilk, stirring with a big spoon until it comes together in a ball. If too crumbly, beat in up to 1/2 c more buttermilk, adding a tablespoon at a time, until it's cohesive.
On a lightly floured surface, shape and pat the dough into a flattish, circle loaf, 8" in diameter, 1 1/2" thick. Place loaf on your prepared sheet. Cut a 1/2" deep X into the loaf's top with a small sharp knife.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes until golden brown on top. Serve immediately.