Sometimes I wish I was a witch. I often think of these poor ladies, in the middle ages, who were just trying to be a little different, a little freer, and would occasionnally put in they caldron an herb or two they would have found while walking in the forest.
Do you sometimes think of how we got to know what was good to eat or not? Who tried chanterelle first? Is it the same person who took the wild step to go and try a Death-angel mushroom (and discovered a few hours later that maybe it wasn't a good idea?).
Anyway, I would like to take the oportunity to thank the brave lady (because of course, only a woman could be that brave) who decided once that maybe stinging nettle were good to eat. This wonderful witch gave us just one of the best soup ever...
La soupe aux orties
1 bunch fresh stinging nettles
3 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion
1 pound potatoes
salt and pepper
My grand-father was the first to tell me about it. He loved telling stories about WWII, in his very own way. A peasant like his father and grand-father and hundreds of men before him, he basically left his village and his fields only once in his life: to go to war. And years and years after that, the only souvenirs he would share were not about fights or epic battles (or, in his case, and as for most of the French soldiers then, epic and ultra quick defeat), but about his time as a war prisoner in Germany. Good times, if you heard him.
There was the day it had snowed so much that they had to dig a tunnel in the snow to get out of their room. Or this friend who received letters that had different meanings wether you read them straight, or every other line. And then, there was the soupe d'orties.
"Of course you can eat stinging nettles", he would say, "we would pick some and add it in the soup in Germany, and it changed everything!". There they were, the real Frenchmen, trying to add something in the watery broth they were given, to change it in some kind of a magic potion. That's how I saw my grand father at the time: I mean, he was not afraid to eat this terrible weed that never failed to sting my legs and left pimples all over my calves! AND he did it while being prisoner of the Nazis!
Now that I also know how good for health and full of great nutrients stinging nettles are, I just can't help but think that he was some kind of Panoramix the druid who makes the magic soup for the Gauls resisting the Roman invasion, in the beloved French Comic, Asterix...
Singing nettle is now one of my favorite ingredient for soup. I try to cook it whenever I find some, but never dared to make it here in the US because I did not know if the one that can be found here was edible... Until I saw this beautiful bunch at the Farmers Market.
Now my father is laughing at me because he and his wife pick their stinging nettles htemselves and for free in the French forest, but what can I say, I'm more of a city girl, and what I eat I mostly bought..
Stinging nettle is awfully good, and non non, it doesn't sting at all. At least not once you cook it. And it's also wonderfully rich in iron, magnesium and calcium. It's great to fight gout, to protect your kidneys, to clear your acne and it's a great... Detox.
There you have it, a French detox soup only a (French and perfect) witch could have invented.
(and yes, it's THAT green!)
How to make it
- Put on your gloves (I promis they won't sting when you eat them but right now, they are dangerous!) and wash the nettle
- Brown the sliced onion in 2 tablespoons butter, and add the nettle leaves. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly.
- Add the peeled and sliced potatoes, salt and pepper, and pour 4 cups of water.
- Cook for 30 minutes over medium heat.
- Process until smooth, preferably with an immersion blender.
- At the last minute, you can add a spoon of crème fraîche ("Juste pour le coeur", just for the heart, as my grand mother would say)