You can feel the stirring under your feet, as the Earth prepares to explode into spring. Gardeners may be looking with weary resignation as nettles and ground elder bullishly thrust their heads above the ground, grabbing space while they can. Although ground elder is a blighter to get rid of, you can take advantage of it at this time of the year and eat it.
I made a really delicious tabouleh using very young ground elder instead of parsley, and it was sensational. A friend and I shared a chicken Caesar salad dotted with punchy wild garlic pesto for lunch on Sunday, and that was so tasty. I don’t particularly love nettle soup, but the leaves can be added to casseroles, and this adds an extra vegetable to your meal, with the bonus of a massive boost of iron and silica and anti-oxidants.
Below is another culinary triumph – Cheese and nettle scones with wild garlic butter.
Cheese and Nettle Scones:
2 ½ cups plain flour
2 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
85 g butter, cold and grated
1 cup packed grated pecorino cheese
2 tablespoons finely chopped very young nettle tops
¾ cup milk at room temp (180ml)
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Line a large shallow baking tray with baking paper.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
Mix the grated butter
This is the part where you have to either don gloves or be brave, but I promise you that you will barely get stung because at this point, your fingers might be coated with flour and butter.
Roll your nettle tops, and finely slice. Once you have enough, finely chop the lot.
Add the cheese and herbs to the bowl, and stir through with a fork.
Now, working quickly, add the milk and use a knife to cut through until you have a stiff dough.
Turn out onto a floured board and quickly pat into a ball, then flatten to about 1 inch thick.
I use a tall glass to cut out the scones and place on the baking tray.
Bake for 18-20 minutes.
Serve hot with wild garlic, or nettle butter.