For Bulgarians Nettle is not just a modern foraging trend, but a very popular ingredient, especially at this time of the year. There are lots of traditional recipes which main ingredient is nettle – soups and stews, croquettes or filling for banitsa. This is my grandma’s special recipe, although I have to admit I didn’t like it very much as a child. But I liked very much the long walks with my grandpa in the nature, picking up edible things, or in other words doing what we now call foraging.
We still believe nettle is one of the healthiest ingredients one can pick up in the nature. Plus when foraged, it’s free of charge, making it even more attractive compared to other greens still expensive in spring. If you use young nettles or just nettle tips, they need only 1-2 minutes of cooking, which in turn will keep most of the nutrients and vitamins in them. It’ll also help them preserve a brighter green color.
If you never tried nettles before, don’t worry – it loses its sting when cooked. Gloves are only needed when picking up nettles. Make sure you harvest them from areas away from busy roads or crop sprays, and always wash the leaves well.
Preparation time: 15-20 minutes
400-450g nettle leaves
800ml – 1l vegetable stock
5-6 spring onions, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped*
¾ (120g) bulgur (fine or medium)
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
pinch of salt
freshly ground mix of peppers
For serving: a good handful of crushed walnuts
*We prefer using 1 or 2 spring garlic stalks instead, but they can be not easily available where you live.
Prepare the nettles, discarding only the tougher stalks and wash the leaves thoroughly in cold water.
Bring the vegetable stock to the boil and add the nettles. You can finely chop the leaves or puree them, when cooked (we actually prefer the second). Add a pinch of salt and some freshly ground pepper mix. After 1 to 3 minutes of boiling and stirring from time to time, the nettles will be tender.
Transfer the leaves with some of the liquid in a food processor or liquidizer. Leave to cool for few minutes and puree the nettle. Keep the other liquid.
Meanwhile in a medium pan heat the butter over medium to low heat. Sweat the chopped spring onions until softened, but not browned. Add chopped garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Add bulgur, stir and remove from heat. Pour over the hot liquid from the nettles. Cover and leave the bulgur to soak for 10 minutes.
When all the stock is absorbed and the bulgur is soft, combine with pureed nettles and stir. If the bulgur is still not soft enough, add some hot water, cover and leave for few minutes.
When you’re ready to serve reheat the soup, but do not let it boil. Add the yogurt (or cream, if you prefer), check the seasoning and mix well. Serve hot, sprinkled with some crushed walnuts or with a slice of crispy homemade bread aside.