Nettle Soup

Wear rubber gloves when you handle them until they are cooked!

How could we miss it? The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook hasn’t got a nettle soup recipe until now! If you don’t already know it, those stinging nettles that shoot up around your compost or wherever there is a bit of nutritious soil, are one of the very first fresh spring ingredients of the Scandinavian kitchen. And how fortunate we are that they kick in first! Nettles launch us into that green season of lighter foods with a healthy dose of iron.

You can pick nettles for use in the kitchen throughout the warm season – use them dried as a herb in cooking and bread baking, sprinkle them dried on a bit of yogurt or buttermilk for enjoying on a hot day, bake them into pies – but we are out after the smallest and earliest leaves for nettle soup. Follow the instructions for preparing nettles as in the recipe for Spring Nettle Pie up to cutting the ball of cooked, pressed nettles into strips. Then follow this recipe reprinted from the invaluable food chapter of On My Swedish Island by yours truly.

“For every amount of fresh nettles that you use, you need half the amount of broth (for 1 quart or 1 liter of fresh nettles you need 1/2 quart or 1/2 liter of broth). Add the cooked, pressed nettles to the broth and gently warm, mixing together. Add whatever: a couple of  tablespoons of butter, cream, or creme fraiche. Season with salt and pepper. You can also stir in an egg yolk or two. As garnishing serve with either a dash of sour cream, or finely chopped hard-boiled eggs. There are so many ways.”

Written by Admin in: Herbs & Spices,Nettle,Savoury Food,Soup | Tags: , ,

Yellow Pea Soup

Peas, like the other pulses and grains of Scandinavia are great heart food!

Peas, like the other pulses and grains of Scandinavia are great heart food!

If you’re feeling a little overloaded after all of the festivities, you’ll want to take it a little easy on the food front. However, latest research supports what we have always known: crash dieting isn’t the answer! Particularly during this sneezy time of year, you expose yourself to flu by reducing your intake of nutritious foods.

What you need at this time of year is pea soup. Sounds terrible, but if you make it from scratch, it is everything but terrible. Garnished with a few slivers of left-over smoked salmon or (dare we say it) that Christmas ham, it is a true January delight that will be your guardian against nasty colds.

While pea soup seems like it takes a long time to prepare, the reality is that the actual time spent working in the kitchen is very short. You just need to plan a bit for soaking overnight and allowing the soup to cook. Here’s how with a few modifications to the traditional recipe.

Yellow Pea Soup

5 dl or a little over 2 cups of dried yellow peas
2.5 dl or 1 cup water or as much as is needed for the yellow peas to be completely soaked
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tbsps olive oil
1.5 chicken or vegetable stock cubes
Pinch of ground cloves
2 tbsps chopped fresh thyme or marjoram
Pinch of sugar
Salt & pepper to taste

For garnishing:
Smoked salmon or cooked ham cut into slivers
Extra fresh marjoram

Rinse the peas and allow them to soak in water overnight. If the peas look dry in the morning, add a little more water so that there is something to cook them in (the peas should still be covered in water). Remove any of the husks that have floated up to the top of the water. Saute chopped onion in olive oil in a cooking pot. Add cloves, chopped marjoram and 2 cloves crushed garlic and continue to saute for another minute. Pour in the soaked beans and water, and add stock cubes. Stir. Allow the soup to simmer, reduce to low heat and cover. Allow peas to cook for approximately two hours. Check after an hour to make sure that the peas are not sticking to the bottom of the cooking pan. If so, add a bit of water. Once the peas are soft, add a pinch of sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with extra marjoram and slivers of smoked salmon or ham. Serve with wholemeal bread.


Solving the Squash Dilemma

End-of-season vegetables from my garden

End-of-season vegetables from my garden

If there is one thing I can always rely on my kitchen vegetable garden to produce in quantity, it is squash. My children walk into the kitchen holding specimens that could double up as baseball bats.

It’s costs me next to nothing, it grows in large quantities outside my kitchen window, it’s good for your health, so isn’t this an ideal food for this season? We should be head over heals…As soon as my husband sees me chopping the squash for the evening meal, he already starts planning that little pile of squash that is going to be left on the edge of the plate when the meal is done. My son isn’t crazy about the stuff either. Only my daughter and I down it like the true good food soldiers that we are.

In a bid to transform squash, in this case zucchini, into everyone’s favorite food, I set about exploring recipes. I found a seemingly exciting recipe for squash muffins in a recent “gourmet” magazine that unfortunately ended up tasting like sugar cake with green bits in it. I tried all sorts of stir-fry variations but that little heap of uneaten squash kept piling up on the edges of plates and returning from whence it came (the compost).

One evening I lacked lettuce to serve with the meal but there was that trusted zucchini on the counter. I decided to chop it rough and toss it with a few tomatoes in a bowl. How could I spice it up? Here is what I did:

Curried Zucchini Salad

1 medium zucchini chopped into small chunks
2 medium tomatoes chopped into quarters
1 red onion chopped
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp salt
1 dl or just under 1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp water

Sauté the onion with curry powder in a little olive oil for 2 minutes. Do not brown. Remove from heat. In a mixing bowl blend with zucchini and tomato. Beat together the remaining ingredients into a dressing. Pour over the zucchini and tomato. Toss and serve on a bed of lettuce or ruccola.

With this recipe there were no zucchini Tower-of-Pisas on the sides of the plates at the end of the meal. Surprise! Surprise! The salad bowl was empty.

Another fantastic squash recipe I cannot but help share with you is for summer squash (yellow or light colored). Even if you are a squash skeptic, this one will warm your heart like a soft, warm blanket.

Summer Squash Soup with Chili

1 large summer squash, chopped
1 white onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red chili, center removed and finely chopped
4 tbsps olive oil
2 tbsps flour
4 dl vegetable or chicken stock
Salt & Pepper to taste
Herb-flavored olive oil

Saute the onion, garlic and chili for 2 minutes without browning. Add the squash and saute for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and sprinkle over the flour. Gradually stir in the stock and return to the heat. Cover and allow to cook on low heat until the squash is softened (about 10 mins). Puree in a food processor. Add further stock if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with a swirl of herb-flavored olive oil.

Adding sliced squash to home-made pizza also works well, but we’ll take that another time!

For more great recipes with Nordic inspiration visit The Nordic Wellbeing Cookbook.

Written by Julie in: Salad,Soup,Squash,Vegetables,zucchini | Tags: , , , ,

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