Cooking has been a lifelong passion for me, a passion that has found its way into my psyche via my mother, who has an innate and perfect understanding of how to combine ingredients, spices, and quantities to create a fabulously synergistic outcome. Her philosophy is to always cook with positive thoughts and a desire to pass these thoughts to others via the food. As an Ayurvedic medicine practitioner, I love nothing more than teaching my clients how to eat wholesome, seasonal foods that have been cooked with love and gratitude.
Ayurveda sees lovingly prepared, seasonal nutrition as a key aspect of its philosophy. Food is medicine and medicine is food. Seasonal cooking is what we should all be aiming for. Eating seasonal, locally growing food means it is as fresh as possible. Food that has been grown and produced out of season, and shipped from somewhere across the other side of the world, will not have had time to develop its full complement of nutrients, and will have lost some flavour due to chilling or long term storage. Eating seasonally also allows us to experience the old-fashioned art of patience, and expectation. Isn’t it nice to look forward to eating vegetables and fruits when they are naturally available, rather than eating a tasteless bowlful that were shipped from abroad just because we are too impatient to wait?
If you are able to forage for food, it can be the most satisfying thing to do. Many plants found growing locally are edible, highly nutritious and if picked in season, offer the best nutrition possible. I make nettle soup every Spring, when nettles are in season. They are widespread in the UK and generally not given a second glance. However, they are a highly nutritious plant, a great attraction for butterflies, and they provide a home for ladybirds too. They contain vitamins and plenty of micronutrients, and have been used in herbal medicine for years. In Ayurveda, their bitter, blood cleansing, Pitta-pacifying qualities make them perfect for reducing inflammation. I lose myself in the whole meditative process of making this soup- from picking the nettles using gardening gloves, to washing them gently using washing up gloves, and then patiently removing the stalks, before putting the ingredients together to make the soup. I love to see the transformation from ‘weed’ to a vivid green meal that so obviously oozes with earth-scented goodness.
So, try to take advantage of the nettle season and make this inexpensive (virtually cost-free), seasonally appropriate, earthy soup that nourishes you, both nutritionally and emotionally. It is surprisingly filling and the quantities in my recipe are enough to feed four as a main meal accompanied by some crusty, seeded bread.
Revel in the process, be in the moment, experiment with ingredients, garnish with something pretty, and enjoy every slow, conscious mouthful.
- Four or five large handfuls of fresh stinging nettles
- Rapeseed oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 1-2 chopped garlic cloves
- 1 large chopped potato
- 1 litre or so of vegetable stock
- Salt and pepper
- A good pinch of nutmeg
- A swirl of cream
Wearing gardening or rubber gloves, pick four or five large handfuls of nettles. The first five or six newer leaves from the top of the plant are the ones to go for.
Keeping your rubber gloves on, wash the leaves a few times in the sink and cut off and discard the stalks.
Soften the onion in the oil and ghee in a large, deep casserole pan, making sure you don’t brown it. Add the garlic and potato and mix well. Saute the ingredients for around 10 minutes.
Add about a litre of vegetable stock (I use the reduced salt Marigold Swiss Vegetable bouillon powder) and let everything gently heat through before adding the prepared nettles. Cook for around half an hour, until the potato is soft. You can add more stock if the mixture looks too thick. Add the nutmeg in the last 5 minutes, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to cool before blitzing in a blender until very smooth.
If you feel you need a little indulgence thrown into the mix, add a swirl of cream to serve.
Delicious, seasonal goodness.