Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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Stinging nettles and honey? It’s not a common combination but using vegetables in desserts is nothing new if you think about zucchinis or carrots. Not only do they taste wonderful in cakes, but they add a healthy note to sweet recipes. Same here, with the wild foraging angle as a bonus! Usually, stinging nettles are used in savory dishes, much like spinach, sauteed or pureed. However in France, nettle desserts are traditional in some regions. When I realized that stinging nettles cakes were an item, this opened a world of possibilities and Friday being baking day, I made an orange blossom nettle cake. As I had harvested too much stinging nettles, I set to make a second stinging nettle cake. Hence this honey and stinging nettle cake.
Foraging the nettles was a fun part of the cake process too. It was a great excuse to take a walk with my daughter after school and forage a wild edible that nobody else wants. She even asked for a rubber glove to help forage the nettles. You can find stinging nettles almost anywhere in a green zone of a city this time of year. Look around the edges, around bushes and trees, along fences, and you’ll find them. I have a Royal Park nearby that’s a great resource for my foraging needs.
To make this cake gluten-free, I used cornmeal because I love the coarseness and taste of the grain, which makes it gluten free. People who enjoyed the cake told me that they like the crunchiness of it. That’s what you get with cornmeal. I use Bob’s Red Mill cornmeal (medium grind, whole grain) in my recipes.
In taste and texture, expect this nettle and honey cake to be quite close to French pain d’épices, a spicy quick bread sold in loaves and a staple afternoon snack for kids. It will springy and slightly sticky on the sides, and delicious as is or toasted and served with butter.
Last but not least, I used honey I purchased at the end of the 3-day backpacking trip in Scotland at the cafe of the Camping & Caravaning Club of Cannich. It’s Scottish heather honey from Struan Apiaries and excellent. The honey you use will have a lot of influence on the taste so if you can, pick a local honey you’re very fond of, not just pasteurized supermarket runny honey from random countries. Every ingredient matters in a 5-ingredient recipe and honey with character certainly makes a difference.
Now the recipe.