My favorite weed is … the nettle! What – you don’t have a favourite weed? You just hate them all equally? In my opinion, weeds that are edible (and there are plenty) are already partially redeemed. But nettle is not only edible, it also actually tastes good: strong, earthy, irony. Plus it’s ridiculously rich in vitamins and minerals, much more than cultivated vegetables. Sometimes I think the only reason nettle has fallen into the ‘weed’ category is that it’s just too easy. And we gardeners want a challenge! We want to grow plants that need to be pampered, fed and protected from pests! Or don’t we?
Anyway, if there are nettles in your garden or somewhere nearby, it would be a shame not to eat some. But perhaps you are still a little wary, or maybe your loved ones are afraid the nettles will sting (they won’t once they’re cooked). In that case, this risotto might be a gentle way of introducing nettles into your diet. Risotto is comfort food and the nettles just make it a little brighter.
The recipe is from Skye Gyngell’s new cookbook. I have been a fan since we visited her restaurant at Petersham Nurseries more than three years ago. It seems that since then she has simplified her cooking even more. The recipes are all lovely and unpretentious, relying on the quality of fresh seasonal ingredients.
I haven’t made many changes to the recipe, mostly just reducing the amount of stock. The recipe called for 2,5 liters which is one liter more than I usually use for this amount of rice and I’m afraid you’d end up with soup, rather than risotto. I also added a little mint, because we love it and it grows so abundantly in our garden. Almost like a weed…
Adapted from Sky Gyngell:Spring
2 generous handfuls of nettle tops
1,5 l (6 cups) vegetable stock
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
400 g (2 cups) risotto rice (Arborio or Carnaroli)
125 ml (1/2 cup) white wine
50 g (1/2 stick) butter
1 small handful of fresh mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped (optional)
80 g (a handful) grated Parmesan
Salt & pepper
Blanch the nettle tops in boiling water for 30 seconds. Drain well, then puree them with 1 tbsp cold water and set aside.
Have your stock simmering on the stove.
Heat the butter and oil in a wide pot. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until softened, about four minutes. Add the garlic and after another minute add the rice. Turn up the heat, stirring continuously until the rice begins to look translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it’s absorbed. Turn the heat a little bit down, it should be high enough to maintain a lively bubble. Begin adding the stock, one ladle at a time, adding more after the stock has been absorbed and stirring continuously. When the rice is almost done (after about 15 minutes), and you have about 2 ladelfuls of stock left, add the pureed nettles. Add the last stock and cook for 3 more minutes. Turn off the heat, add the butter, mint and Parmesan and cover the pot. Let sit for a couple of minutes, then check the seasoning. Serve with a little freshly grated Parmesan and mint on top.