I love gardening, and the place we’re renting at the moment is perfect for it. The owner has spent 40 years developing the soil, and its beautiful. Sadly though, we moved in a little late in the season, and some of my veggies are coming a long a bit slowly because of the cold.
The same can’t be said for the weeds. Stinging nettle has found its way its the veggie beds, and has taken over fast. I was going to rip it all out, but further consideration has lead me to realise that a) it stops the slugs and caterpillars from walking straight from one plant to the next, and b) its edible.
And nettle isn’t the only thing going great guns at our place – the lemon tree is continuing to be prolific, and my mushroom container (bought at the Flemington farmer’s market, but also available at CERES and other garden shops) finally grew me some fungi!
So I’ve been playing with ways to use our bounty, and here’s the best hits so far.
Nettle and Spelt Pasta
I made this a few weeks ago, and didn’t get a picture, so you’ll just have to imagine the grey-green coloured, hand made noodles.
I used my all purpose pasta recipe, with just the one tweak. I blanched and pureed around two and a half cups of chopped nettle, resulting in about 1 cup of nettle mush. I then added the nettle mush to the flour to make a crumbly dough, before adding enough water to fill it out. Of course the measurements elude me, but you get the idea.
I served it up with a tomato sauce because I was playing host to some kidlets, but I think it would be great tossed with some salt, nooch, garlic and olive oil.
Next up was a nettle risotto, with lemon and pumpkin.
I wasn’t going to post a recipe, because I make risotto all the time and was sure I had posted a few here by now. But when I looked for a recipe to link to – gasp! I’ve never actually posted one. So here is my risotto recipe this time with nettle, but use whatever veg you like (I’m a big fan of plain onion risotto).
Risotto with Nettle
- 2 cups raw nettle, washed and stems removed (use gloves and be very careful, they hurt)
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 1/5 cups aborio rice
- 1 cup pumpkin, small dice
- 6 cups stock of your choice I used veggie
- zest of two lemons
- 3 Tbs lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
- salt and pepper to taste
- First deal with the nettle. Wearing gloves remove the stems and any dead leaves. Put the nettle in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, lower heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain.
- Puree half the nettle, and chop the other half, and set aside.
- In a large saucepan heat the oil and fry the onion until soft and beginning to brown.
- Add the garlic and fry for another 5 minutes, stirring.
- Add the rice and wine, and stir over high heat until the rice begins to turn more opaque.
- Add 2 cups of stock, the nettle and the pumpkin. Bring to the boil, then return to simmer until the stock is nearly absorbed. Repeat, stirring frequently, until the stock is all used up and the rice is cooked.
- Stir the lemon juice and zest through, taste, and add salt, pepper or herbs you want – i used tarrgon with the nettle.
- Serve up hot.
So my nettle use has had a bit of an Italian bent. This time I went with pesto to top some plain pasta. This is easy peasy, but as before, be very careful when handling the nettle.
- 2 cups of washed nettle, stems removed.
- 1/3 cup of pine nuts
- 1/4 cup cashews
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbs nutritional yeast
- juice of half a lemon
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup vegan cheese, crumbled
- First deal with the nettle. Wearing gloves remove the stems and any dead leaves. Put the nettle in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, lower heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and set aside.
- In a dry, non-stick pan, toast the pine nuts until they brown. Be watchful – they take a while but once they begin to brown they burn quickly. Reserve half of the pine nuts for garnish.
- Toss all ingredients together and blend. I use a stick blender, but a food processor or big blender will work too.
- serve on pasta, topped with the vegan cheese and left over toasted pine nuts.
Lemon and Hazelnut Cheesecake and Vegan Lemon Butter
My sister suggested I turn my mound of lemons into lemon butter, and I actually found a vegan recipe very quickly. I used this one, and created my own jar of the stuff. Its sweet and sour, and while it is tasty, it isn’t really matching up to the memory of buttery, creamy, eggy lemon butter of my pre-vegan days. I might give it another go with more coconut milk though.
I did, however, turn it into the topping for a delicious cheesecake. I need to work on it again though, because the lemon tang completely overwhelmed everything else, and not in a good way.
Fabulous Plain Old Fried Mushrooms
Last, we come to the mushrooms. In my first crop I only had enough mushrooms for one meal and the pressure was on to find the most perfect thing to do with them. In the end I decided I wanted to know what they tasted like alone, and how they compared with other mushies, so I fried ’em up home style with some margarine, salt, pepper and garlic powder. They were stupendously good, and I can’t wait for more mushroom babies to spring up!