Tasty Helpings

I love nettles, they are so tasty and healthy. They’re packed with Vitamin C and A, very good for people who suffer from diabetes. Plus they are FREE, growing profusely around Cranleigh especially between March and July. So if you go out for a walk just take a bag and pair of scissors with you or a small sharp knife, and take advantage of what nature has on offer. Always remember when dealing with nettles to wear a pair of kitchen or latex gloves to avoid any skin irritation!

Nettles and Potato Soup – Serves 4

150g Fresh nettles
3 Medium size potatoes
1 Large white onion
1 Litre vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon of Extra
Virgin olive oil
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
Stock Ingredients
2 Carrots
1 Celery stick
1 Large onion
1 Tomato (optional)
2 Litres of water

1. Wash the nettles in cold water and then leave to dry either in some kitchen roll or in a dry cloth.
2. Now let’s start to prepare the vegetable stock. If you are really busy and don’t have much time, you can use gelatine stock that is now available in most supermarkets. But if you have time there is nothing better that a lovely homemade stock. To make it pour 2 litres of cold water into a large saucepan. Remember to add all the ingredients when the water is cold, which is the best way to extract all the nutrients from the vegetables. Peel and roughly chop the carrots, onion and celery stick. I also love to add a large tomato cut in half, for a bit of extra flavour, but I leave this up to you if want to try something a bit different or not.
3. Put all the chopped vegetables in the cold water saucepan and place on the hob over a medium heat. Once the water starts boiling, turn the heat down to moderate and leave it to cook for 1 hour and 30 minutes. After that remove the vegetables from the stock. Note: we use these vegetables as a side dish with a nice dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. From the original 2 litres of water we should be left with around 1 litre of stock. So our stock is now ready.
4. Returning to the original recipe, peel the potatoes and cut them in small cubes, then cut the onion as finely as possible.
5. Pour the olive oil in a large saucepan and when it is hot, add the finely chopped onion and let it cook for 2 minutes. After that add a ladle of stock and continue to cook until all the stock has been absorbed from the onion. We now add the potatoes and 2 more ladles of stock and let it cook for further 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are nicely cook and soft.
6. Now finally add the nettles together with one more ladle of stock and let it cook for 10 minutes. Our Nettle and Potato Soup is now ready to serve. If you prefer a more creamy texture just use an immersion blender before serving.

Suggested Wine: Primitivo (Italy)

Asparagus Linguine Carbonara – Serves 4

I’ve had so many people asking for the real carbonara recipe and others who are vegetarians and really like this classical Italian dish but can’t eat it because of the bacon or pancetta. This is a really easy recipe and if you don’t like asparagus just replace it with pancetta or bacon. Asparagus is delicious when in season, it’s sweet and tasty (just a suggestion – add a bit of water to the egg mix). If you make this with asparagus, please don’t add any double cream as it will smother the delicate flavour of the asparagus.

600g of asparagus
500g of dried linguine
6 organic eggs yolks
1 garlic clove, crushed with a pinch of sea salt
200g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus extra for serving
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus sphere. Then cut at an angle into 1cm slices. Leave to one side.
2. Cook the linguine in a pot of boiling salted water, try to take it out 2 minutes before the cooking time on the packet so it stays “al dente”.
3. Meanwhile, put the egg yolks and garlic into a sauté pan (off the heat) and beat until the yolks are broken up. Add few spoons of the pasta water and leave to one side.
4. When the pasta has been cooking for about 5 minutes, add the asparagus to the pot. Continue cooking until the pasta is ready.
5. Using a large metal sieve, remove the linguine and sliced asparagus from the pot and add to the sauté pan. Add the parmesan. Place the pan over a medium heat and toss the pasta by shaking the pan, or using a wooden spoon, so that it forms a sauce and coats the strands of pasta nicely. Add a few more spoonful’s of pasta water if the sauce gets too thick.
6. Serve with more parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

Suggested Wine: Riesling (Austria)

Cream Charlotte – Serves 4

4 egg yolks
200g of unsalted butter
100g granulated sugar
1 small glass (75ml) of Rum
30 Sponge fingers
1 Pyrex baking dish or glass roaster dish (it has to be a clear container to show the layers of the Cream Charlotte!)

1. Place the egg yolks, butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Then with a whisk start mixing them together. (Remember to take the butter out of the fridge 20 minutes before you start cooking, so it’s easy to work).
2. Once the mixture starts to form a cream, slowly add half glass of rum.
3. Use the rest of the rum and dip 15 of the sponge fingers into it.
4. Get a nice Pyrex baking dish, grease the base and sides with butter. First place the dipped sponge fingers in the base of the baking dish, then add a layer of cream on top. Add another layer of sponge fingers (without rum) and another layer of cream on top of that. NOTE: depending on the size of your Pyrex baking dish you can add more layers to the pudding. Also if you share it with kids, you can replace the rum with maple or golden syrup.
5. Now place in the fridge for 1 hour to settle, 1 hour before serving. Feel free to decorate it to your own taste.

Suggested Wine: Sauterne (France)

Simone Conti

Enjoying these recipes? You can read more of Simone’s meals HERE.

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