If nettles are not touted as the next miraculous superfood, it is probably just because it is a little hard to successfully market a common weed. If they were difficult to grow and could only be imported from distant countries, which would warrant an outrageous prize, fresh nettles might lie on the shelves of health food stores instead of being viewed as an annoying weed.
As it is, they are available to everyone, for free. They are also one of the first plants to start growing in spring. So let’s forgive them for being such resilient plants (which is another way of saying “annoying weeds”) and let’s enjoy their green, irony taste and their health benefits. You can count on nettles: they will always be there for you, they’ll always return even if you send them away, they’ll cure your anemia and make your hair grow better. They are a miraculous superfood, even if not easily marketable.
The first nettle dish to come out of our kitchen this year was a quiche. I fiddled with the crust a bit ( I have a slight obsession with weird pie crusts) by adding some sesame seeds – for an extra crunch and taste. The filling is just a simple custard with a little grinding of nutmeg – I want to taste the nettles! A little cheese on top and you’re set.
Nettle quiche with sesame seed crust
165g (1 ¼ cup) flour – I used about 1/3 whole wheat flour
¼ tsp salt
30 g (¼ cup) sesame seeds
100 g (1 stick) cold butter
3 – 5 tbsp cold water
150 g (5 ounces) nettles (just the tops)
250 ml (1 cup) cream
¼ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
100 g (about 1 cup) grated hard cheese (sharp cheddar)
In a meduim bowl, combine flour with salt and sesame seeds. Add butter in cubes of 1 cm (½ inch) and with your finger tips, mix the flour and butter until the mixture resembles coarse bread crumbs. Add 3 tablespoons of cold water and see if the dough comes together to form a ball. If not, add a little more water, 1 tablespoon at a time. If the dough has gotten warm, form a flat disk a let it rest in the fridge for about half an hour. Otherwise, roll out straight away.
Roll the dough out into a circle of at least 30 cm (12 inch) diameter. Carefully transfer the dough to a (fluted) tart pan of 24 cm (9 inch) diameter. Cut off the excess overhanging dough and use it to reinforce the sides if necessary. (I actually had enough dough left to make a tiny galette with tomato filling for Sebastiaan who refused to eat nettles.) Cool the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes (or longer if convenient).
Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (360 F).
Meanwhile, wash the nettles and cook them briefly in a large pan until they wilt, about 5 minutes.
In a medium bowl or a measuring jar, whisk together eggs and cream. Add the ground nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.
Cover the tart shell with parchment or aluminium foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Take the tart shell out of the oven and lift out the parchment and weights. Distribute the wilted nettles over the tart shell and cover with grated cheese, then pour the custard gently over them. Bake for another 20 – 30 minutes until the custard is set and the top is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature.