JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day

Friday, March 13, 2009

Nettle pesto

A couple of days ago, I noticed the nettles bursting through in the garden - a real sign of spring. A weed, but welcome, because the butterflies love them. And because they taste so good, at least while they are young.

Here's a quick recipe for a homemade convenience food that will sit happily in your fridge for most of the week. This nettle mess works both as an green sauce / salsa verde AND as a pesto. It's a thrifty recipe, as it uses breadcrumbs to cut down on the nuts and cheese. It's delicious too. We ate it with vegetables at the beginning of the week, and finished it today on pasta, thinned down with a little of the cooking water.

Nettle pesto

Mint (if you've got it, or other herbs, or none)
Wholemeal bread

Pick a colander full of young nettle tops (you'll need gloves). Rinse them, then plunge them into boiling water for one minute to blanch them and take the sting out of them. As soon as the minute's up, tip them back into the colander (keep the water, it's full of goodness and can be drunk like a tisane) and run under the cold tap to stop them cooking. When they're cold, squeeze out the water.

Put a slice of wholemeal bread into the food processor. Add a chunk of cheese, a peeled clove of garlic and the nettles and a little mint. Blitz, then add oil in a stream. I used rapeseed oil. Keep tasting, adjusting the amounts. Hard to say how much oil, as it depends on what you are going to do with the sauce.

Links to related posts

Nettle soup
Nettle tea
Nettle beer
Ground elder salad


Trish said...

Please don't laugh at me but...what are nettles? I mean...I know it is a weed...but do you have a pic? Obviously we don't have these where I live so I won't be making this but I am very very curious.

Ed Bruske said...

great idea. in fact, with spring on the way, we will be looking for edible weeds of all kinds to put in our pesto

Joanna said...

Trish, absolutely not going to laugh, lucky you no nettles. Click on nettle beer or nettle tea at the bottom of this post and you'll find pictures of nettles. They grow like crazy on uncultivated ground, they sting, they taste great, and butterflies love them. You could substitute spinach here, if that gives you an idea for other weeds you could use

Ed ... I like the way this recipe uses breadcrumbs, cutting down on cheese, both for health and thrift. I wonder if it would be better with toasted breadcrumbs: so far, I've been too lazy to try ;)


Krista @londonelicious said...

I wouldn't recognize nettle if it bit me. I too would like a photo!

silverpebble said...

What a wonderful idea - I've made pesto with rocket before but never nettles. Plain old home-made basil pesto went down well with my three year old recently ( a lovely surprise - it's green hoummous mummy!) so maybe I'll give this a try, although my health visitor may find it dubious that I'll have fed my tots nettles!

charlie said...

This looks wonderful, I will definately try it. I have often had nettle omlettes, but never thought of pesto. Thanks for posting this!

Joanna said...

Silverpebble - I always found it best not to mention much to my health visitor, to stop her needless worrying ;)

Charlie - never thought of making a nettle omelette, thanks for the tip


Sam said...

I would love to try this recipe, it sounds interesting and delicious. What would you say nettles taste like, I've heard they're similar to spinach.

Joanna said...

They are quite like nettles, Sam, perhaps a little more bitter, and they don't leave that iron taste on your teeth. Very good. Just make sure you only eat young shoots or the growing tips of bigger plants


Just Cook It said...

Fantastic idea.

alexthepink said...

Sounds like a great idea, and free too!

60 Going On 16 said...

What a brilliant idea, thank you. And for the link to ground elder salad: I shall look at that hitherto pesky plant, (which has driven me to distraction in my garden) with a very different eye now.

Joanna said...

Yes, I felt quite differently about ground elder after making that discovery - but I still wish there wasn't any in my garden ;)


Becky said...

Oh why with all my wild food have I never thought is this looks and sounds lovely . Done pesto with wild garlic which is pungent to say the least

Joanna said...

Well, Becky, I've never tried pesto made with wild garlic, although that may be because they aren't very prolific round here, so I'm more likely to use them like chives. But I've tried most things with nettles, and quite a few with dandelions, too. Who needs chlorine-washed supermarket salad???


Leanne said...

Mmmm! This pesto looks great, can't wait til I can give it a go.

I've copied the recipe onto my blog, hope that's ok. I think we need to spread the word that nettles are amazing. They have such a bad name now in the UK. Nasty Weeds? No way! They are amazing healthy free food!

Eco Gites of Lenault said...

I've made wild garlic pesto too - now I'm wondering if wild garlic and nettle pesto would work.

Rosie x

Joanna said...

I should think it would be fabulous - after all, most pesto has garlic ... I'll look forward to reading about it on your blog :)


Anonymous said...

Pesto with nettles - what a great idea. I love it because you use the nettles nearly raw so preserving their highly-nutritious goodness. Please comment on my latest blog (on nettle soup) to let my visitors know about nettle pesto!

This is a lovely looking blog - I am glad I found it.

Anonymous said...

Hi and thanks for your comment on my blog on my nettle pesto, inspired by your great recipe (but veganised!).

Now I want to know about the dandelions! How do you cook/eat them?

Joanna said...

Dandelions ... mostly I just pick them and use them as salad - really young leaves, lovely and peppery. They stand up well in a warm salad, where they wilt a little without disintegrating - very good the other evening with scallops, good contrast of bitter/sweet

Will think about how to cook them and make a post soon