Stinging nettles still grow in great profusion throughout the Irish countryside. Use gloves when you are gathering them so as not to roast yourself! Maura Laverty in Kind Cooking describes how people would draw “old footless black woollen stockings” over their hands for protection. With their high iron content, nettles were prominent in Irish folk medicine, and helped in some small measure to alleviate hunger during the Great Famine.
Irish Nettle Soup
Serves 6 (approximately)
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 2 cups chopped potatoes
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1½-1¾ cups leeks, chopped
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4¼ cups homemade chicken stock
- ½ cup young nettles, washed and chopped
- â…” cup cream or half and half
- Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. When it foams, add the potatoes, onions, and leeks and toss them in the butter until well coated.
- Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Cover with a paper lid (to keep in the steam) and the lid of the saucepan, then sweat on gentle heat for approximately 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft but not colored.
- Discard the paper lid. Add the stock and boil until the vegetables are just cooked. Add the chopped nettle leaves.
- Simmer uncovered for just a few minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the vegetables will discolor and also lose their flavor. Add the cream or half and half and liquefy. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary. Serve hot.