BRAD     |     EMILLIE

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Beauty and The Beast

As our weather dawns bright and warm; spring flowers are blooming, rows of radishes are sprouting in the allotment (this year we're sharing a garden plot with four others gardeners -the plots are pretty big), and farmer Roger's lambs are out in the field with the ewes. And since it is the Eve of St. Patrick's Day, the town is preparing for tomorrow with full regalia. Nikolai's watched St. Mary's Band practice for the parade by marching up Main Street, the Presentation Girls school students dancing to traditional music on the lawn in front of the school, and even the NUIM creche (daycare) was out marching around banging on drums. Tomorrow we will be heading to the parade in Dublin, so I hope that a photo blog will follow shortly.

All this springtime joy and Irish Pride (much more pronounced then last year... likely due to the new beginnings with a new government, which, as a pleasant surprise, has already proved its mettle in talks with the EU) has led me in a quest to finally test the culinary uses of Stinging Nettle. (It didn't hurt that Rosie at the farmers' market had sold out of spinach by the time I got there on Saturday.) Regardless, it took me 3 attempts to make something edible out of the nettle, and so I provide you with the following advice...

How to prepare Stinging Nettle for consumption:

1. Only pick young nettle. (I tried a meal in August and we were all basically "stung" while eating). If you continuously pick from the same patch you will probably be able to extend the life of the young nettle well into the summer.

2. Wear rubber gloves, boots and long sleeves for harvesting (no sense being stung while harvesting!)

3. Avoid picking from roadsides, as dirt and exhaust will make the nettle less than appetizing. We picked our nettle from Carton Ave and around the Maynooth Allotments.

4. Wash and pick the leaves off the stems... while still wearing those rubber gloves (the stems are too fibrous to be fun to eat, even pureed).

5. Prepare in any way that you would use spinach... as long as it's cooked you wont be stung.

And while stinging nettle soup is the most popular dish, I also can recommend putting leaves on pizza, using them in an omelet or souffle, or creating a nettle and cheese dip!

Here's a recipe that's a variation on the basic nettle soup (potatoes, stock and cream)... which is more of an Indian subj.

In 1 tbsp of oil, fry a chopped brown onion until lightly browned. Add 2 cloves of garlic, 1 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp garam masala, 1 1/2 tsp mustard seed and 1/2 tsp turmeric and fry until fragrant. Add 1/2 cup of red lentils, 2 cups of stock and 3 cups of prepared nettle leaves. Simmer until the lentils are cooked, then salt to taste (I used 1/2 tsp of salt).

So why bother going through all the trouble of using stinging nettle when spinach is sooo much easier?

-it's free.
-it's healthier than spinach.
-it has that cache of "je ne sais quoi" when being served to guests.

The scales featured in the photo are a wedding gift from Brad's sister in Australia (THANKS SO MUCH DINA!!).

Now, for something a bit more somber... every morning I wake up to find out what has happened in Japan . The scope of devastation is unreal. The result is such that even the news broadcasters are unable to convey the nature of fear, loss and destruction with anything beyond simple statistics. I wish to send out my love and sympathy to all my friends and family in Japan.

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