When spring finally emerges, I like to banish lethargy and listlessness and that’s when I start to crave the vitalising, cleansing effect of nettles. I normally have my first bowl of nettle soup in March, but I was a bit late in foraging any from our plot this year. When the day dawned bright and fair on Sunday morning, I was determined to go nettle picking – and I did.
I’m super excited about my latest green powder for my smoothies. It may not be an original idea, but it was original to me. As soon as I knew I was getting a dehydrator, I was stung into action, literally. The first thing I did was to try drying nettle leaves in the hope I could turn them into a fine green nettle powder.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I am having such fun with my Froothie power blender. Mostly, I’ve only used it so far for making smoothies, but smoothies I’d never have been able to make in my old blender. I’ve already posted about my kefir raw cacao and goji berry smoothie. Today I thought I’d try a spring tonic nettle smoothie.
There is no doubt about it, nettles are jam packed full of goodness and there seems no end to their health benefits. Be wary of their sting when raw by all means, but once cooked, they make an excellent spinach substitute. At a time of year when there is not a lot ready to be harvested in our gardens, plots and fields, they fill a handy gap. Some of the nicest home brew I have tasted was nettle beer. We use them to enrich our compost heap and make a tea for both ourselves and the garden. Recently I noted in a guest post by Urvashi Roe over at Fuss Free Flavours that toasted nettle seeds are good scattered over salads or even porridge. That’s a new one on me and I can’t wait for the nettles to start seeding so I can try it. Despite my love of this stinging weed, nettles were not something I had ever thought of adding to cakes. I was quite startled when I saw a recipe for nettle and lemon cake over on Veggie Desserts. I really shouldn’t have been too surprised, however. Kate incorporates all sorts of interesting vegetables into her bakes and desserts and if you haven’t yet come across her blog, I urge you to take a look.
My love of nettles and my experimental inclinations very soon got the better of me and it wasn’t long before I was having a go myself. Over Easter, I met up with some old school friends for a fabulous walk along the south Devon coast near East Prawle (just love that name). I suspected they would be intrigued rather than aghast at the thought of eating nettle cakes, so I took them along to picnic on after our walk. I sort of followed Kate’s recipe, but reduced the quantities somewhat and adapted it in order to add white chocolate. I also topped it with a mascarpone icing.
This is how I made:
Nettle, Lemon and White Chocolate Cupcakes
- Picked 100g of young nettle tops (top 4 leaves). Washed them, then simmered with a little water until they were cooked – about 5 minutes.
- Drained off any excess water and pureed with a hand blender.
- Melted 50g white chocolate in a large bowl over a pan of hot water.
- Added 150g cubed unsalted butter and 115g vanilla sugar (golden caster).
- Grated in the zest of ½ an organic lemon (reserving the other half for the icing) and creamed until light and fluffy.
- Beat in 2 duck eggs (large hens eggs) and 1 tsp vanilla extract.
- Sifted in 200g flour (half wholemeal, half white) and 1 tsp baking powder.
- Squeezed in the juice of half a lemon.
- Added the nettle puree and stirred until just combined.
- Spooned into 15 cupcake cases and baked at 180℃ for about 20 minutes when the cakes were well risen and an inserted skewer came out clean.
- Turned out onto a wire rack to cool.
- Stirred the remaining lemon zest into 125g mascarpone cheese.
- Squeezed in the remaining lemon juice.
- Sifted in 100g icing sugar and beat well.
- Spread the icing on top of the cakes.
The icing was a little on the runny side, so you might want to fiddle with the quantities. But it tasted most satisfactory as did the nettle cupcakes. There was some debate as to whether the nettles could be tasted or not, but all enjoyed them and loved the vibrant green colour. CT was aghast that anyone could fail to detect the flavour; thankfully he kept his thoughts to himself. The best bit of course, was feeling as though you were having a nutritious snack whilst tucking into a sweet indulgent treat. Maybe it was both?
As nettles were very much in season when I made these cakes and in fact still are, I am entering them into Simple and in Season with Ren Behan.
One of these cakes at least is being sent off to Emily of A Mummy Too for her #recipeoftheweek.
Spring is the time for nettles and I can’t think of a better veg to celebrate it with – well maybe I can, but it is one of my favourites. Celebrating Spring is the theme for this month’s Four Seasons Food which is being hosted by Lou of Eat Your Veg. Anneli of Delicieux hosted last month.
This was a bank holiday cake bake for taking on a picnic so qualifies for this month’s Calendar Cakes over at Dolly Bakes.