Spring is here and the nettles are back

Posted on: 4th April, 2016

Category: A Flavour of West Cork

Contributor: Karen Austin

Like most edibles that grow, we are most enthusiastic when they first arrive. One minute we’re scrabbling around searching for the baby plants, the next there is a veritable jungle standing three feet high.

They are a bonus in the kitchen but a curse for gardeners. In my case it’s a perk to be able to use something so pesky. Young nettles are tasty and tender. The part of the plant that needs to be picked is the tip – a bit like picking tea. If you are careful they won’t sting you, but if you’re in a hurry or in doubt, wear a pair of gloves. Either way, use scissors to snip the tips from the plants.

Nettles are a specialty of the Northern hemisphere, they don’t grow in Australia nor anywhere that isn’t fertile and wet, which rules out quite a lot of the world. Their prolific growth in Ireland proves they are very happy in this climate. If you have a nettle patch that bugs you or is getting out of control just keep cutting it back and it’ll eventually get exhausted and give up.

Before you do that, and whilst they are young and tender, you might enjoy this month’s recipe. Each year we seem to have some kind of nettle culinary craze. We’ve made pestos, herby Greek pies, smoothies and soups and this year we’re on nettle and herb frittata with local buffalo ricotta cheese. I put in fennel weed, parsley and chives, which are growing in our garden. Use whatever herbs you can get your hands on, soft green ones are best — parsley, chervil, basil, mint or chives…Wild garlic would be good too if you could make it down to the woods.

Nettle, Herb and Ricotta Frittata

Ingredients:

1 onion

25mls olive oil

6 eggs

1litre of young nettle tips

a big handful of any herbs – fennel, parsley, basil, chives etc

150g buffalo ricotta

salt and pepper

Method:

Peel and chop the onion. Heat a small non-stick pan and add enough olive oil to barely cover the bottom and then add the chopped onion. Turn the heat to medium and gently cook the onion until it softens. Season with a little salt. Stir in the nettles, keep the heat on medium and cook gently until the nettles wilt and soften.

Chop any green herbs that you are using.

Crack the eggs into a bowl, season with a little salt and pepper whisk them to mix then stir in the chopped herbs and wilted nettles. Break the ricotta into clumps and gently stir in, don’t over mix, you need a little lumpiness.

Put the pan back on the heat and add a drizzle of olive oil. When the pan is hot, pour in the nettle and egg mix, then turn the heat to low and cover with a lid. Cook gently for three to four minutes. The frittata should be setting. Put the grill on hot and pop the frittata under to finish. Don’t leave it to go too golden, just a little. It’s better a little soft than overdone, as it’ll continue cooking off the heat the heat.

Spring has galloped away for us and we’re getting busy in the garden.

There are a few more cooking classes before the summer. (The Fish class (April 23), The Italian class (May 7) and Salads, Herbs, Summer Food (May 28) — after that we’ll be in the garden.

Here’s hoping for sunshine

Karen

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Contributors on the night are Colm Sheehy, Conor Murray, David Lowney, Denis Murphy, Eoghan Deasy, Sean McEvoy, Thomas Clancy and Treasa O'Brien.
Topics covered will range from awareness and responsibility to yourself and others to the benefits of exercise and nutrition.
The evening is suitable for everyone aged 16 and over from players, members of the community, parents of young and adolescent children, etc.

This is a public event, free of charge and everyone is invited and very welcome to attend.
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The Cast of Harold Pinter’s ‘No Man’s Land’ are on their way to the All-Ireland finals, having won 26 awards, including five best of Festivals, at the Amateur Drama League of Ireland annual three act festivals. The play ‘No Man’s Land, by Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize Winning Author is directed by Jennifer Williams.

One last opportunity to view this multi award winning play at Skibbereen Town Hall, on Saturday 14th of April, before the finals.

Having met by chance in a pub, two aging writers continue a long night of drinking and reminiscing in a stately London home. As the night wears on, their conversation wanders through memories long forgotten or invented. Is their encounter real or a delusion? Are they strangers or do they share a past history? When unexpected guests intrude upon an increasingly surreal evening, the atmosphere quickly changes from friendly to threatening, and the encounter becomes a game of survival.

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