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gorgeous goddess > keelhauled > midnight violets >
creeping jenny > nettled > lady macbeth   
Beltane 2010

TomCyn Photoarts (photo)

Nettled

I like seasonal cooking. I feel the larger portion of foods we eat should be fresh and not frozen or imported from warmer climes. So, as spring begins and we head into the Nor'western's early summer with Beltane, I look for things that speak of new life to me.

I also like to keep a sense of history about my kitchen and (since medieval times or before) stinging nettles were a spring green. Nettles are rich in iron and other minerals and vitamins that a winter-starved body must have been craving back in the day before freezers and super markets. Nettles are surprisingly high in protein for a plant kingdom denizen, and very tasty if not over-cooked. Strip off the newest leaves for use and cook them briefly!

This soup also links to the last of the winter stores: the celeriac root is a tough root veggie that keeps well in a cool root cellar or modern refrigerator. I like to tie my seasons together—it makes me feel grounded in time and nature! Celeriac is a popular European vegetable, but you may have to search a bit here to find it. It must be peeled quite deeply, as the outer edges are very woody and nigh inedible. So, if the amount I start with seems heavy, a good deal of it is peeled away. Being potato-allergic inspired me to attack this formidable veggie and I was rewarded with succulent flavor!

This is a light meat meal; you may of course make it meatless and even vegan, if the spirit so guides you. But being of the carnivorous sorts, we flavor ours with a bit of smoky bacon and in especially festive times, a bit of pepperoni made of bison meat! This year, the meat will be kept to one side for guests to sprinkle at will, as vegetarians will be among us!

from the kitchen of Labrys

Suggested Watching

To Spring (1936, unrated)

Suggested Listening

Symphony No. 6: Pastorale by Ludwig von Beethoven

Difficulty

Bottle Short of a Six Pack
Click here for definitions of difficulty levels.

Download

Full page recipe (pdf format)
3x5 card recipe (pdf format)

Ingredients

U.S. Metric Ingredient
3 lb 1.3 kg celeriac (about 2 large roots)

1 lb

.5 kg onions, finely minced (sweet onions are preferred)
8 oz 225 g carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
8-12 oz 225-340 g fresh nettle leaves, washed in a salad spinner and chopped — WEAR GLOVES!
1/3 c 75 g ghee (or 1/3 c/80 ml other oil with high heat resistance)
2-4 strips thick-cut smoky bacon (rashers), chopped fine and fried until very crisp
4-6 c 1-1.4 L broth of your choice
to taste salt and pepper

Chef's Notes

Meet Mr. Celeraic
click image to enlarge
TomCyn Photoarts (photo)

Stinging nettles are called that for good reason, and must be harvested with gloves and cooked before eating. Click here for help identifying nettles and instructions on harvesting them.

This recipe is quite versatile and can be modified to suit your own tastes. You may want to substitute minced fresh leeks for part of the onions for a slightly different flavor. In winter time, if one is craving a taste of spring (or beating a deadline!), use the dried nettles found in tea bags from health food stores. Use 10-12 nettle tea bags to approximate the amount needed for this recipe.

If you enjoy the smoky flavor of the bacon, and you aren't afraid of saturated meat fats, you may use the bacon fat to brown the onions in the first step. Your favorite game sausage can be substituted for the bacon if available; use only 1-2 oz./28-56 grams, thinly sliced. I also often use beef broth, or the "No Chicken" broth available for vegetarians when making this soup.

The AntiCraft assumes any well stocked kitchen to have certain things on hand. (Click for our basic kitchen items list)

Makes a huge pot.

Directions

click image to enlarge
TomCyn Photoarts (photo)

Prepare your vegetables. Peel the celeriac quite thickly, but carefully, and use a sharp knife. This is hard work, and a dull knife makes it too likely you will cut yourself struggling with this vegetable version of a stone! Slice the celeriac into half-inch rounds, and then cube it into half-inch pieces. You will know the celeriac is peeled deeply enough if it slices and dices easily with no woody impediments to your knife. Mince the onions and slice the carrots.

Have the nettles prepared and set aside. DO NOT touch them uncooked with un-gloved hands.

Have the cooked bacon ready as well, and if you are using a bit of pepperoni, it likely will benefit from a light browning, too.

In a large stock pot, melt the ghee or heat oil, reserving about 2 tablespoons. Add the onions and slowly brown them till almost caramelized. You want a nice golden brown color and must stir them frequently so they do not burn. Remove onions, melt the rest of the ghee and briefly saute the sliced carrots and cubes of celeriac.

Add the broth, stir in the onions and bring to a boil, then simmer until the celeriac and carrot are nearly tender, 5-10 minutes. You may vary the broth amount depending upon if you want a thick stew-like bowlful, or a thinner soup. Add the bacon and sausage slices, then add salt and pepper.

click image to enlarge
TomCyn Photoarts (photo)

Last of all, add the fresh nettles, lower the heat and cover the pot. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve with crusty bread.

I like beer with this meal; it is rough and ready peasant fare with no hopped up pretensions. It can be a rather hearty first course in a big feast menu and is great for folks who have grain allergies since it is not dependent upon thickeners. Relish the coming green of the year!

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