12 March 2017

Nettle Soup

Spring is coming in big strides now and the few spare hours I have at week-ends when it's daylight is to experience some despair in that I stand no chance of getting on top of all the weeds. But I have my special favourites that do get priority - the rhubarb bed is one of them and as I cleared them out, I noticed that there were a lot of nettles around, so decided to try my hand at nettle soup.

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A quick browse, combined with not having potatoes in the house, made me settle for this one, which turned out pretty well, after some adjustments of my own.

Thus armed with a very thick plastic bag and my thick leather gloves (very good for brambles!), I wandered through the farthest and shadiest corners of the garden and took off all the nettle tips and a few of the smaller leaves. Volume-wise, I'd say I had about 3 litres of the stuff, per weight, I barely reached 200 g. But there was no injury involved anywhere.

Ingredients

4 tbsp pearl barley
200 g nettles - tips and tender top leaves only
1 medium onion
30 g butter
1 handful of wild garlic
1 tbsp chopped parsley
25 g chives
600 ml chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

To serve
Swedish meatballs
Labneh or strained Greek yoghurt

Method

  1. Measure up the pearl barley in a small saucepan, add plenty of water and set to cook as per instructions on the packet.
  2. Wash the nettles thoroughly, then steam for about 10 minutes until they have wilted, but still remain dark green.
  3. Peel and dice the onion coarsely, then melt the butter in a frying pan, let it start going golden, then add the onion.
  4. Stir the onion to get it coated with the butter, then turn down the heat and let fry gently until it goes translucent. Stir occasionally.
  5. Transfer the nettles into a deep casserole, add the garlic, parsley and chives. Pour over the chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes.
  6. Remove the casserole from the heat and carefully blend the nettle soup until smooth. Season to taste.
  7. When the pearl barley is ready, drain it well, then stir into the smooth soup along with the fried onions.
  8. Serve with a topping of your choice, like Swedish meatballs and labneh or strained Greek yogurt.
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This turned out quite nice, even if it was a quite un-appetising dark green. I did make one mistake in adding a whole litre of stock, rather than 600 ml and this made the soup too thin for my liking. It combined very nicely with Swedish meatballs and a couple of spoons of the labneh I made the other day. I think more wild garlic would be good too.

12 February 2017

Butter cookies

It's been ages since I've cooked anything new to put on the blog. The long Christmas break I was expecting didn't turn out as long and my to-do list is now shifting to later and later in the year.

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But I have a new job and I'm still working out a routine for everything. I've also picked up two new hobbies - knitting and crocheting. My Sister Bib got me started over the holidays, she's been crocheting for years. I now have several projects on the go, with Lundulph smiling bemused and wondering how long this fad will last.

I also want to start taking something to work, my new colleagues take turns in bringing cakes in to the team meetings. I pushed in last week and brought in some Swedish cinnamon buns, which did go down a treat and a couple of colleagues even asked for the recipe. Following on this success and feeling the urge to use my cookie press, I did a quick search on the internet and found this recipe for butter cookies, which seemed rather good. Here, the amounts converted to metric.

Ingredients

6.32 dl plain flour
¼ tsp salt
227 g butter at room temperature
2.37 dl white caster sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
sprinkles and icing for decoration

Method

  1. Place 2 - 3 baking sheets in the freezer to chill.
  2. In a bowl, stir together the flour and salt.
  3. In another large bowl, cream together the butter and caster sugar until fluffy.
  4. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract.
  5. Stir in the flour/salt mixture, just enough to combine.
  6. Form the dough into a ball and wrap in cling film, then place in the fridge for 1 h to chill.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200 °C and prepare the cookie press with the pattern of your choice.
  8. Take the dough out of the fridge and fill the cookie press.
  9. Take a chilled sheet from the freezer and stamp it full of cookies. Do not use baking paper or grease the sheet or the cookies won't stick.
  10. Bake in the oven for 8 - 10 minutes until golden brown, then remove and immediately transfer to a cooling rack and replace the sheet in the freezer.
  11. Repeat with the other chilled trays until the dough has been used up.
  12. Decorate with icing and sprinkles of your choice - some sprinkles can be done before baking, some after, in which case they'll require icing to stick.