As all gardeners know, fresh nettles are in abundance at this time of year. They are also a delicious and very healthy immune boosting cooking ingredient. Since frequent shopping trips are discouraged during the lockdown, why not make use of food that grows around you?
Before you embark on foraging for nettles for cooking have a look at the do’s and dont’s at THIS LINK
Add nettles to the pan of onions and spices
Below is a recipe which has been a family favourite for years, ‘Red Lentil Dhal with Cabbage’. Since I had no cabbage in the house I substituted it with fresh nettles and the result was delicious.
If you have never cooked or tasted nettles, they wilt and taste similar to baby spinach, but less bitter.
1 1/4 cups red split lentils, picked over, washed and drained
a colander full of freshly picked nettles (make sure you wear gloves when you pick them).
1 to 2 fresh, hot green chilies, finely sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 medium tomato, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger
The nettles soon wilt
How to make it
Put the lentils and water into a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Remove any foam that collects at the top. Add the turmeric and stir to mix. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, turn heat down to low, and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours. Stir a few times during the last 30 minutes.
When the lentils cook, heat the oil in an 8 to 9 inch frying pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 3 to 4 seconds. Now put in the garlic. As soon as the garlic pieces begin to brown, put in the onion, nettles and green chilies. Stir and fry the nettle mixture for about 10 minutes or until it begins to brown and turn slightly crisp. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Turn off the heat under the frying pan.
When the lentils have cooked for 1 1/4 hours, add the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, the tomato and ginger to the pot. Stir to mix. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Add the nettle mixture and any remaining oil in the frying pan. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.
Simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes or until it is heated through.
Great served with naan or pita bread or rice.
Combine the stewed lentils with the nettle mixture
You can also add nettles to pasta sauces, stir fries, stews and soups: for example potatoes and nettles make a tasty soup, just add onions, stock and salt & pepper.