Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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How would you like to make a free family dinner from your day’s hike? From trail to table is a new series of blog posts that I write about foraging for the family table. In the autumn, we made wild blackberry jam. This year, we waited for spring to find some tender green stinging nettles and packed rubber gloves and plastic bags on a hike with our girls. Our kids love eating stinging nettles and anything off the trail so this was a great culinary application of what the great outdoors can bring to you!
Though stinging nettles are not usually associated with yummy things, they are delicious and their nutty taste makes them as easy to use as spinach (with added beta-carotene and vitamin C). Lucky for gourmet hikers of all ages, stinging nettles are very common on the trail and stinging nettles risotto is a guaranteed child-pleaser (it’s also very easy to make).
Foraging Stinging Nettles
First, make sure that you can positively identify stinging nettles. You can find out the hard way (get stung) or check out this handy guide with pics of stinging nettles at various stages of their life cycle.
To forage for stinging nettles, make sure that you cover all exposed skin area so that you avoid being stung. In this picture, I am wearing:
It’s best to harvest only the top young leaves and if you can, only the leaves (not the stem). Just so.
After 10 minutes, my husband and I had harvested roughly 6 oz / 170g. This is what it looks like in the bag.
Hopeful, I thought that we had half a pound but volume can be deceiving. After weighing it on a scale at home, we clearly didn’t have that much.
To make the stinging nettles risotto
Wash and rinse the nettles and discard the tough stems. Bring a big pot of water to a boil and blanch for a couple minutes.
Drain and set aside. When cool enough to handle, squeeze and chop on a board with a sharp knife.
In a big pot, melt 30g / 1Tbs of butter and add one chopped onion. Sweat for 8 to 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes, add 175g / 6.5 oz arborio rice to the onions and stir. Meanwhile, heat 900 ml / 2 US pints of fresh chicken stock in a separate pot. Add the stinging nettles and stir.
Ladle in the chicken stock, ladle by ladle, over low heat and stir frequently to let the rice slowly absorb the liquid.
Halfway through the cooking (which should take about 20 minutes), add 20cl / 1 cup of white wine and continue to stir. As you can see, we are very scientific about the 20 cl.
If you are lucky to have lemons preserved in olive oil in your cupboards, now’s the time to finely chop a big lemon slice and add it to the risotto. If you don’t have preserved lemons, do’t worry. You can do without.
Keep adding the stock until it has all been absorbed. Right before serving, add 50 g / 2 oz of grated parmesan or pecorino romano and stir.
This is it. Enjoy!