Nettle has a unique and delicious flavour. No surprise then that its soups with potato, a luscious risotto, and the various flamiche recipes become favourites.
This recipe concentrates the taste of the dark green fleshy leaves with the rustic flavour of toasted sunflower kernels, a soupcon of chilli heat, and the richness of a good olive oil.
You could use this forager’s Nettle pesto as a base and build it up with flavours of your own: such as basil, anchovy fillets, Kalamata olives, crab apple purée, or hazel nuts.
100g stinging nettle leaves (single leaves without stalk or petioles)
100 ml good olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
2 tsp mild red chilli, chopped finely
1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
50g sunflower kernels
juice of 1 lemon
- Put the nettle leaves into a bowl and cover with clingfim and microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Take out of the microwave, leave the clingfilm on and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Alternatively steam the nettle leaves for 5 minutes until tender.
- Fry the chilli in 2 teaspoons of the olive oil until soft and the oil is coloured.
- In a food processor add the rest of olive oil, the fried chilli and all the chopped garlic and blitz. Add the nettle leaves and combine to a smooth purée. Add black pepper and lemon juice to taste.
- Heat the sunflower kernels in a dry frying pan over a moderate heat, stirring or tossing them, until they just start to colour. Careful or they will burn. Immediately tip into a bowl to cool.
- With a spatula, remove the nettle purée from the food processor bowl into a serving bowl. Add the sunflower seeds and gently mix in.
- Serving tips: excellent with feta cheese, on toast (or bruschetta), with roast vegetables (including jacket potato), or just mixed into hot pasta.
- The pesto will keep in the fridge, best to top the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil and store in a sterilized, lidded, and labelled jar.
Foragers tip: If you cut stinging nettle back to about 20cm high, it will reshoot giving you a supply of fresh leaves. Repeat cutting works until the first frost.
Medical Herbalist & Forager