Market ingredient: Stinging nettles
Difficulty: The dish itself is REALLY easy, but handling the nettles can be troublesome
Deliciousness: Simple flavours
Did The Beard like it? “If I didn’t know they were stinging nettles, I’d have thought it was spinach.
I was really excited this week. I was on to a jackpot of an ingredient. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that the intention of this blog was to push myself to cook with ingredients that I’ve never used before or do so rarely. It’s not often that you actually come across an ingredient that you’ve literally never used or never tried and this was one of those weeks. Not only was I shocked that someone was actually selling stinging nettles, but there were in fact 2 stalls selling them. Radtown.
Watching the grower handle them was quite funny. Instructions everywhere tell you to wear thick gardening gloves when handling these babies – and here was this young guy using his bare hands. Well, he gave me an awkward smile when I asked for a bunch, picked them up with his thumb and forefinger and threw them across the counter with a quick flick of the wrist, then had to use a plastic bag to pick them up and handle them. Needless to say, I trotted off quite happy with myself, as proud as if I was Rene Redzepi and actually foraged for these things. Eveleigh Markets is basically foraging for the urbanite, right?
Handling stinging nettles requires a bit of care. They do exactly as it says on the jar. They sting. They have these dirty great big hairs on the leaves and stalks that act like mini needles that inject chemicals into your skin. Yikes. So make sure you wear some sort of gloves to remove the leaves from the stalks. However, cooking (and apparently just soaking in water) will remove the sting and make them edible. I wasn’t taking any chances, so boiled them in water initially, before adding them to the pasta. If I had my time again, I would prehaps just try adding them raw straight to the pasta. My theory on this is that they’ll cook when stirred through the pasta, so should also theoretically loose their sting that way. Next time, Gadget, next time. I also used a mixture of squid ink and regular linguine, but you could just use regular if you wanted.
Ingredients for Linguine with stinging nettles and chorizo.
- 400g fresh linguine
- 1 bunch of stinging nettles
- 1 fresh chorizo, thinly sliced
- 1/2 small red chilli, finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 1/2 brown onion, finely chopped
- olive oil and parmesan cheese to serve.
- Wearing gloves, remove the individual nettle leaves from the stalks and place in a bowl. Be mindful of the leaves and don’t handle with bare hands.
- Boil water in a large pot. Quickly blanch the nettle leaves in the water for 30sec-1min. Remove from the stove, drain the water and set aside.
- In a large pan, heat the onion, garlic, chilli and chorizo over a medium heat until the onion becomes translucent and the chorizo begins to brown.
- Cook the linguine in a large pot of rapidly boiling, salted water, until almost al dente. Remove from the heat, drain most of the water from the pot and then put the pot back on the stove. There should be just a small amount (e.g. 0.5cm) of water in the bottom of the pot. Return the drained pasta to the pot and add the chorizo and onion mixture. Add a good glug of olive oil and stir and continue to cook the pasta. Heating the pasta with the sauce like this (rather than putting the sauce on top at the end) allows the pasta itself to take up the flavour of the sauce.
- Take the drained nettle leaves and squeeze gentle to remove excess water. Separate the leaves and add them to the pasta and stir gently.
- Serve with extra olive oil and parmesan.
I was a little surprised at how much the nettle leaves reduced in size. It’s like draining water from spinach – it reduces quite a lot when you do this. As a result, I felt like there wasn’t quite enough nettle through the dish. The nettles, however, were very delicious in themselves. A deep green colour and deep spinach flavour. I really actually liked them. I’d definitely use them again, but might see if someone else can pick them for me!