Nettles, to my way of thinking are one of the most underrated free vegetables that we have. They contain 10% protein which is more than any other vegetable, they are packed full of iron, contain vitamin A, C and D, along with potassium and calcium.
They’re also a natural antihistamine. So if you suffer with allergies including hay fever, it makes sense to try and include as much nettle into your diet as possible. Now that you know all of this, please don’t dig them up out of your garden without at least pinching the crown out of each one and giving them a try. If you like the irony taste of spinach, you’ll feel the same way about nettles.
Before you know it, buying spinach at the green grocers will be a thing of the past and you’ll be cultivating that patch of nettles rather than digging them up!
The best time to harvest nettles is when the first delicate growth makes an appearance in May, after that the stalks become woody and tough and the larger the leaf the more bitter it is and once they flower, you’re better off leaving them alone. Before the flowers appear, just pinch off the very top leaves to use. If you have a patch of nettles, as long as you regularly chop them down (maybe with a strimmer), new growth will keep appearing for you to pick.
I made some lovely Nettle and Paneer Koftas last night and thought that you might like to give them a try. Please don’t do what I did though – I forgot that I’d used nettles and tasted a spoonful of the raw mixture to check that there was enough salt in the mixture! After that, I wasn’t sure if I’d used too much chilli or that I’d stung my tongue! Taste the mixture BEFORE you add the nettles – ouch.
NETTLE & PANEER KOFTAS
Collect around 10 nettle tops (using rubber gloves) and chop them finely along with a handful of fresh coriander. Put the coriander in a large bowl, but put the nettles to one side to add at the end!
To the bowl add half a block of grated paneer (you can buy it from most supermarkets now, or have a go at making your own – the recipe is on this blog), 1 small onion finely chopped, a 5cm (1″) piece of ginger grated, 1 clove garlic crushed; chilli to taste (use fresh, ground or flakes) along with 3tblsp chickpea flour (also known as gram flour, this is available from most supermarkets in the world food section). You could add 3 tblsp processed canned chickpeas instead with 1tblsp normal flour added to the mixture.
Spices – 1/2 tsp of ground coriander and cumin and 1/4 tsp turmeric and garam masala. If you haven’t got all of these, just add the ones that you have.
Add 1tsp salt (or to taste), 1tblsp oil and the juice of half a lemon.
Mix well and taste at this point so that you can add more salt/chilli/lemon juice. Finally add the stinging nettles and a little more flour if the mixture seems overly wet. Give everything a good stir. You want a mixture that holds its shape.
Take desert spoons of the mixture and put them onto greaseproof paper. Try and make them into some sort of shape so that they hold together during the frying process. I made quenelles with mine using 2 spoons.
Fill a wok/deep pan half full of oil and heat. The oil is ready when you drop a piece of bread in, it will sizzle gently.
Gently and carefully slide the kofta into the oil, not too many at a time so as not to reduce the oil temperature too much and fry until golden.
These can also be baked in the oven if preferred, just make sure you spray/brush each kofta with oil before putting in a medium oven until golden.
I served mine with a mushroom curry sauce and rice. They are also good served with cucumber raita with drinks.