A ramble in the brambles: Paula McIntyre’s nettle soup and blackberry streusel - BelfastTelegraph.co.uk

2022-09-17 07:36:35 By : Mr. levi li

Saturday, 17 September 2022 | 8.9°C Belfast

Premium subscribers enjoy unlimited access to all articles. But there's more: discover your full benefits now.

Nettle soup with crispy bacon, nettle pesto toasts

Nature seems to be in overdrive at the moment. As the seasons change and summer morphs into autumn the hedgerows are abundant, like a final gift before winter. Nettles in particular are flourishing now. A soup made with their verdant, iron rich leaves is a traditional and nutritious way of making the most of them.

W hen picking nettles arm yourself with some heavy duty gloves and source them away from roadsides where fuel fumes have affected them. Wash them thoroughly before picking off the leaves. If you blanch them first for a few seconds it will remove the sting but leave their vibrant green colour.

The recipe here is for nettle soup with the addition of some nettle pesto toasts. Nettle pesto is a delicious way of using the leaves. You can add it to pasta, risotto, mashed potatoes or as in the recipe here – spread over hot toasted soda farl to add a little crunchy foil for the velvety smooth soup.

White balsamic vinegar is one of my favourite ingredients. It adds a gentle zing to dressings. Burren Balsamics is a company based in Richill that infuse Italian vinegars with local ingredients. Their peat smoked white balsamic is perfect in this recipe adding a subtle sweet sour flavour to the punchy nettles.

Blackberries are coming into their own now and are ripe for the picking. Gathering blackberries, while popping the occasional one into my mouth, is something I’ve been doing most of my life.

When I was young they would have been combined with apples in a pie or crumble. There’s something very satisfying about picking wild food like these purple berries, cooking and eating them. It’s also a good idea to preserve any excess fruit for later.

Making jam is the most obvious way but making into a vinegar is an alternative. Cover a pound of the fruit with cider vinegar, place a tea towel on top and leave for a couple of days. Add a couple of tablespoons of sugar and simmer in a pan for 10 minutes. Strain and bottle. Use in salad dressings or in sauces to have with duck, pork or oily fish.

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

Enter email address This field is required Sign Up

The recipe here is for something to enjoy the fruit right now in a blackberry streusel – a layer of pastry, topped with fruit and covered with a crumble. Enjoy with a dollop of cream or scoop of ice-cream while hot or cold as a traybake with a cup of tea.

Nettle soup with crispy bacon, nettle pesto toasts

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped

750ml chicken or ham stock

Add the butter to the pan and when melted add the onion, garlic and celery. Cook gently for 10 minutes then add the potato and stock. While it simmers blanch the nettle leaves in boiling salted water for 20 seconds then cool in iced water. Drain well and pat dry. When the potato is soft add the nettles and cream. Check seasoning and blend to a smooth soup.

For the nettle pesto toasts

75ml olive oil or good local rapeseed oil

2 tablespoons white balsamic or white wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

4 soda farls, split in half

Blanch the nettle leaves in boiling salted water for 30 seconds then cool in iced water. Drain and pat dry on kitchen paper.

Heat a tablespoon of the oil and cook the garlic gently until golden. Place in a jug with the nettles, parsley, almonds, remaining oil and balsamic and blend. Check seasoning.

Toast the sodas and spoon the pesto on top. Cut into strips and serve on the side of the soup.

Place blackberries in a pan with the sugar and cook until they start to go soft. Mix the cornflour with a tablespoon of water and mix into the blackberries. Place in a bowl and allow to cool.

Rub the flour and butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs ( you could do this in a food processor) and add the sugar. Mix in the egg to a dough.

Grease a baking tin or dish with butter and line with parchment paper. Press the dough into the bottom and level off. Place in fridge.

100g butter at room temperature

Rub the flour and butter together to coarse crumbs. Mix in the sugar.

Set the oven to 170oc.

Spread the apple and blueberry mixture evenly over the top of the pastry base. Spread the streusel all over the top of the fruit.

Place in oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until golden and crisp on top. Cool for 10 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm with cream or ice-cream. Also good cold with a cup of tea (store in an airtight container for up to a week).

The Belfast Telegraph is a member of IPSO and subscribes to its Editors' Code of Practice Ipso

A Mediahuis Website © BelfastTelegraph.co.uk