Food & Drink
Swe-dishes: SwedishFood.com’s Nettle SoupMarch 15, 2017
Cooking a plant that involves the word “stinging” is never comforting, but Nettle Soup (nässelsoppa) is a Swedish favorite that serves as a sign of spring.
- Nettles can be tough to find in the United States; here is a website to order them online.
- Only use nettles less than 1 foot high because otherwise they will be fibrous and tough.
- Avoid nettles that are flowering: They are too old.
- For the best flavor, pick only the top four or six leaves on each spear.
- The soup freezes well, but you can also freeze the nettle tops.
- It is important to pick over the nettles carefully to remove grass, tree leaves and any dirty nettles because otherwise you will need to discard the vitamin-rich water.
- For an even better flavor, use good quality vegetable stock rather than bouillon cubes.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 8 cups stinging nettle shoots
- 1 cups water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. butter
- ½ cup chopped chives
- 1 chicken bouillon cube*
- 1 vegetable bouillon cube*
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- Pinch white pepper
- 3½ cups water
- 1-2 tsp. cornstarch
- 4 hard boiled eggs
- ½ c. crème fraîche
*For vegetarians, use 2 vegetable bouillon cubes.
- Rinse the nettles well by swishing them around in a sink of cold water and letting them float for a couple of minutes so any dirt will sink to the bottom. They will still sting at this stage so work carefully. Gently remove the nettles from the water trying not to disturb dirt in the bottom and keep an eye out for any unwanted bugs that need to be removed.
- Place the nettles in a 2-quart stock pot. Add 1 cup water and sprinkle 1 tsp. of salt over the top of the nettles. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil and let the nettles cook for 5 minutes.
- If you are comfortable with the cleanliness of your nettles, strain off the cooking water and save it, pressing gently on the nettles to release more of their liquid. Otherwise discard the cooking water.
- Place the cooked nettles on a cutting board. Strain off the cooking water and save it, pressing gently on the nettles to release more of their liquid. Place the cooked nettles on a cutting board and chop finely.
- Melt the butter in the same stock pot over medium heat. Add the chives and cook for 1-2 minutes. Crumble the bouillon cubes into the mix, breaking them up and stirring to dissolve them into the butter.
- Add the chopped nettles to the stock pot along with the saved cooking liquid, a further 3½ cups of water, thyme and a pinch of white pepper. (If you weren’t able to save the cooking liquid add another 1 cup of water.)
- Dissolve the cornstarch in a little water and stir it into the soup. Bring to a boil and cook until the soup thickens slightly.
- Serve hot with halved hard-boiled eggs for garnish (see below), some crème fraîche and bread. (Svartbröd, a wonderful sweet black bread, goes really well with this soup.)
Hard boiled eggs
The eggs should have hard yolks, but with a little creaminess in the middle so that they have a bright yellowy-orange color. To achieve this, place the eggs in a saucepan of cold water, bring them to a gentle simmer, and simmer for 6 minutes for medium sized eggs and 7 minutes for large eggs. As soon as they are cooked, remove them with a slotted spoon, cool them under running water and then leave them to cool completely in cold water. (The running water is essential to prevent the eggs cooking further and a dark ring developing between the yolk and the white.)
Once the eggs are completely cold, peel them and trim the ends slightly, so that they can be stood up, and then slice them in two crossways. Place the egg halves in a soup bowl and then carefully ladle the soup around the eggs.
- Smoked salmon instead of, or as well as, the hard-boiled egg and crème fraîche.
- Hard boiled eggs, watercress and croutons.
- Quail eggs instead of hen’s eggs.
- Crispy bacon with a poached egg.
- Use shallots in place of chives, but purée in a blender after Step 6 and then return to the pan to reheat.
- Add a large potato, finely diced, along with the shallots or chives, but boil for about 10 minutes until the potatoes are really soft. Afterward, purée in a blender and then return to the pan to reheat. The potato will provide the starch for thickening the soup, so the cornstarch can be omitted.
- Adding some fresh or frozen peas will give the soup a little sweetness.
John Duxbury enjoys cooking Swedish food and went to the trouble of learning Swedish so he could read Swedish cookbooks. The love affair with Swedish food started as a result of numerous visits to Sweden when he was working with Swedish students. When he retired from teaching he decided to set up SwedishFood.com so other people with an interest in Swedish cooking could benefit from his work.