Nettle Gnocchi

The nice thing about nettles is that one never has too look very far to find them.  Woods, parks, river banks, pathways: they’re everywhere and, now that I’ve discovered they are very tasty indeed, that’s a really good thing.  The nasty thing about nettles, of course, is that they have a rather effective defense mechanism and having been no stranger to nettles stings as a child, I knew I had to be prepared for an afternoon’s picking.

Garbed in thick gardening gloves and several long-sleeved jumpers, I marched through the warm June afternoon to my chosen patch.  I had a thick plastic bag and a long handled pair of scissors.  Surely I’d be able to harvest some nettle leaves without any pain? 

Apparently not.  This evening I am nursing itchy red hands, arms and shins.  Protective clothing, it seems, is no match to the malice of the green stingers.  Their sticky little hooks managed to get under all of my layers, making what should have been a pleasant afternoon’s foraging into a rather uncomfortable experience.

Still, I got my revenge later in the day by dropping the offending leaves into a vat of boiling water before squeezing them dry and chopping them finely.  Let that be a warning to you, stingy plants!

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The following recipe is my entry to Joanna’s One Local Summer event which is collecting recipes using local produce only.  This dish fits the bill.  Everything other than the salt and pepper is from the north of Scotland.

Nettle Gnocchi

650g floury potatoes

A shopping bag full of nettle leaves (When picking nettles, look for young plants with bright green leaves rather than the very dark mature plants. which can be very bitter.)

100g cheddar cheese, finely grated

Salt and pepper

2 egg yolks

100g plain flour

  • Steam potatoes until completely soft, cool slightly then pass through a potato ricer.
  • Add nettles to a large pan of boiling water and cook for 5 minutes.  Drain and squeeze out all the moisture from the leaves before chopping very, very finely. 
  • Mix together the potatoes, nettles, cheese, egg yolks and seasoning.  Gradually add the flour to the mixture and combine with your hands until a pliable dough has formed.
  • Roll into long 2cm wide sausages and cut into 3 cm pieces. 
  • Drop half a dozen or so of the gnocchi into rolling water and stir with a spoon to create a gnocchi whirlpool.  Boil gently until the gnocchi start to float.  Cook for 30 seconds more then remove from water and drain. 
  • I ate this drizzled with melted butter and sprinkled with chives. 

    Kesäkeitto

    I’m in a distinctly Scandinavian mood this week, it seems.  On Wednesday I posted a recipe for traditional Swedish pancakes and today I’m sharing yet another Finnish dish with you all.  Have to say, this one is an absolute cracker. 

    Kesäkeitto translates as “summer soup” and, without wanting to sound like a complete cheese-ball, this is exactly what it tastes like: sunshine in a bowl.  Though quite easy to make at any time of year using mature vegetables or even frozen, this nourishing soup is really special when made with young, tender produce.  Prettier too.  🙂

    Kesäkeitto

    (Serves 4 generously)

    A few parsley stalks

    1 bay leaf

    8 baby carrots, halved length-ways then width ways

    5 radishes, quartered

    4 baby new potatoes, cut into 8 chunks each

    1/2 head of cauliflower, seperated into small florets

    Handful of green beans, trimmed and cut in half

    75g peas (fresh or frozen)

    2 large handful of spinach leaves

    1 tspn salt

    Water

    1 tblspn butter

    1 tblspn plain flour

    100ml milk

    1 egg yolk

    50ml cream

    Seasoning

    Dill

    •  Add the herbs and all the vegetables (apart from the spinach) to a pan.  Add water until veg is covered by 1 inch of liquid.  Add the salt. 
    • Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the spinach and simmer for 5 more minutes.
    • Drain the vegetables reserving the stock that has been created and discarding the herbs.
    • In a heavy based pan melt the butter and add the flour.  Stir to create a roux.  Add 4 ladles of stock one at a time, whisking out all lumps.  Add the rest of the stock and the milk to create a rich milky stock.
    • In a small bowl, mix together the egg yolk and cream.  Gradually add 50ml of the milky stock to the eggy-cream to create a smooth sauce then gradually add this sauce back into the pan with the milky stock, whisking smoothly all the while.
    • Add the vegetables back into the stock and heat through.  Season carefully.
    • Serve sprinkled with dill.

    P.S. This is my entry for this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by the lovely Maninas

    Lina’s Swedish Pancakes

    Though I’m a distinctly savoury girl, I’ve always made my pancakes sweet.  Flour, sugar, egg, milk and baking powder all mixed together to create little fluffy pancakes destined to be adorned with nutella or lemon juice or (in nostalgic moments) sticky golden syrup.  They’re very good.  But rather sweet.  And so, it is with relief that I have recently discovered another type of pancake that I like equally well.

    It was Lina, my Scandinavian friend, who introduced me to these Swedish pancakes last weekend.  Despite being heavily pregnant, she insisted on making all five of us a hearty breakfast on Sunday morning and it was with great admiration and not a little envy that I watched her effortlessly whip up a humongous pile of perfectly formed pancakes in a ridiculously short time.  She gets it from her grandmother apparently.

    Swedish Pancakes

    (makes 20 thin pancakes – four was enough for me but other diners ate 12!)

    1 1/3 cups plain flour

    2 1/2 cups milk

    1 tsp salt

    3 eggs

    Large knob of butter

    • Sift the flour into a large bowl.  Add the milk gradually and whisk free of lumps.  Add the salt.
    • Beat the eggs and whisk into the batter.
    • Melt the butter in a heavy non stick frying pan and pour into batter.  Whisk again.
    • Heat the pan over a medium high heat and carefully add one ladle of batter to the pan.  When bubbles begin to form in the batter, use a spatula to turn the pancake.  Slide out of pan and fold onto a warmed plate.
    • Continue until all the batter has been used and you have a pile of folded pancakes.
    • Serve with lemon and sugar.

    P.S. Just discovered that Susan is hosting a Pancake event this month.  Perfect!  This will be my entry.