By Angel Munro
Stinging nettle is an edible weed that grows in winter. Nettle can be grown at home, foraged or purchased at some farmers markets. The herb has been used in many cultures for centuries to treat various inflammatory conditions. Nettle contains good amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin K & chlorophyll, making it an excellent blood tonic.
To disarm the stingers, nettle can be blanched in boiling water for one minute, then it is safe to touch. Alternatively, nettle can be dried & used as a tea. Interestingly, dried nettle has been used as a smoking herb for centuries & can be useful in people transitioning from marijuana & tobacco addictions.
When harvesting, wear gloves to avoid being stung & be cautious not to forage from heavily sprayed environments.
You can use nettle as you would spinach & it is great in ravioli, pesto, spanakopita & of course risoto. If you don't have access to nettle, you can use, spinach, silver beet or rocket instead.
5 cups of vegetable stock, (plus extra if you need it)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
300g arborio or carnaroli rice
3/4 cup finely grated parmesan or pecorino, plus extra to serve
flaked sea salt
Cracked pepper, parmesan, chopped parsley & edible flowers (optional) to serve
Stinging nettle puree
2 cups firmly packed stinging nettle leaves
pinch of salt
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
For the nettle puree
Blanch nettles in a saucepan of boiling salted water for 1 minute.
Drain, squeeze out excess water, remove any thick stems or seedpods and set aside (nettles can now be handled without gloves).
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a fry pan & add onion, cook for a couple of minutes until translucent. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Transfer to a tall jug with 2 tbsp of olive oil, a pinch of salt and nettles. Using a stick blender, whiz to a puree. Set aside.
To make the risotto
Place stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low and keep at a gentle simmer.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes or until well coated in oil. Add hot stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and allowing stock to be absorbed before adding the next 1/2 cup.
Continue until all stock has been used, the rice is just cooked and the mixture is thick and creamy (this will take about 15-20 minutes). Once its cooked, fold in nettle puree. Remove from heat and stir through 1 tsp salt flakes or to taste, and cheese.
Divide among serving bowls and scatter with parsley, extra cheese and edible flowers if using and serve immediately.