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Forager's Nettle Pesto

Nettle has a unique and delicious flavour. Popular recipes include soups, risotto, and various flamiche recipes. We decided to bring nettles to the fore with this delicious forager's pesto. This recipe concentrates the taste of the dark green fleshy leaves with the rustic flavour of toasted hazelnuts, a bit of chilli heat, and the richness of good olive oil. You could use this forager’s nettle pesto as a base and build it up with flavours of your own, for example, basil, Kalamata olives, or pistachio nuts. This is excellent with feta cheese, on toast (or bruschetta), with roast vegetables (including jacket potato), or just mixed into hot pasta.

Forager’s Nettle Pesto

Ingredients

  • 100g young stinging-nettle leaves (top 4-6 leaves without stalk or petioles)
  • 100 ml good olive oil
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 2 tsp mild red chilli, chopped finely (or dried chilli flakes)
  • 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
  • 50g hazel nuts (or sunflower kernels)
  • juice of 1 lemon

Method

  1. Put the nettle leaves into a bowl and cover with cling film and microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Take out of the microwave, leave the cling film on and allow to cool for 5 minutes. Alternatively, cover and steam the nettle leaves for 5 minutes until tender.
  2. Fry the chilli in 2 teaspoons of the olive oil until soft and the oil is coloured.
  3. In a food processor add the rest of olive oil, the fried chilli, and all the chopped garlic and blitz. Add the nettle leaves and combine to a smooth purée. Add black pepper and lemon juice to taste.
  4. Heat the hazel nuts in a dry frying pan over a moderate heat, stirring or tossing them, until they just start to colour. Careful or they will burn. Immediately tip into a bowl to cool. Coarsely crush in a mortar and pestle.
  5. With a spatula, remove the nettle purée from the food processor bowl into a serving bowl. Add the hazel nuts and gently mix in.

Storage: The pesto will keep in the fridge for a month, best to top the pesto with a thin layer of olive oil and store in a sterilized, lidded, and labelled jar.


For more tips on foraging, read Christopher's foraging basis or come along on one of his foraging courses.

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