There are so many ways to work with nettles, and often the simplest ways are the best.
On the other hand, it can be fun just to play around a bit. In both appearance and, crucially, texture and flavour I really like what I made here.
- Freshly picked spring nettles
Start with freshly picked spring nettles
Pick off all the stalks
Find and oil a maple leaf in good condition or (second best) cut out a shape on card.
Steam leaves for a couple of minutes and lay over pattern (2 layers).
Cover and press for an hour or more.
Remove from press and flip over
Use a sharp knife to trim the edges
Flip over again
- Remove card from back, then brush lightly with oil, salt and season, and eitherdry flat with a thin weight on top, or dry as it is to get a crinkled effect.
Now, after 2 hours work, eat it in 2 seconds!
I will never do this again as it takes far too long! Of course, that’s to be expected when trying out a concept to see if it’ll work. (By the way, I forgot to mention that the stalk is made from a thin and firm strip of pickled burdock root). There are two things I’d do differently. First, I’d search my nearest skip or pop down to the hardware shop, get a strip of metal and make various leaf-shaped cutters. Secondly, I enjoyed the flavour of the steamed leaves, but wouldn’t limit myself to steamed and layered leaves. As part of this experiment I liquidized and seasoned raw nettle leaves with salt, pepper and wild garlic root powder. However I couldn’t get this off the cut-out without it breaking, nor could I adequately cut leaf shapes from a large thin square of the puree that I’d dedydrated (although I still ate it quite happily of course). Indeed, dehydrated unshaped pieces are delicious and can be used in many dishes, as Pascal Baudar shows here:
A selection of different leaf-shaped cutters will make this tasty and decorative nibble worth making again, and not just with nettles but with all kinds of edible wild leaves