I've been fascinated by nettles for ages - a plant that is vilified as a weed and yet grows everywhere and is highly nutritious. I know it's roughly the same as spinach so I took my usual approach to cooking - trawl the internet for ideas then make it up as I go along! The first thing I learnt was that what I thought of as a bhaji is more accurately called a pakora which is what I set out to make.
First things first, get some nettles. Pretty much anywhere you live in the UK there will nettles near by (probably most of the temperate world) and my top tip for gathering them is to use those yellow washing up gloves. Not very glamorous or rock'n'roll but they do the job and protect wrists as well. The best tasting leaves are those that are newly grown at the top of the plant. You can see these are a brighter green than the rest of the plant.
You will need:
A big bag of nettles (mine weighed in around 100g)
A clove or two of garlic
Salt & Pepper
Plain flour - I used a couple of tablespoons full but I'm low carb so I tried to minimise the amount.
Oil for frying - I used sesame oil.
Also usual kitchen stuff plus a food processor and a wok.
Step 1: Preparing the Ingredients
To make nettles edible without a funny tingling sensation, you have to boil them for 10 minutes. In my first attempt I found the stalks way too chewy, so it's best to strip the leaves off. Just cover them with water and keep the lid on to simmer them for at least ten minutes. Once you've done this step you can take off the rubber gloves!
While they are simmering, you can grind the seeds in a mortar with a pestle and peel and quarter the onion and garlic. Give the onions and garlic a quick buzz in the food processor, then drain the nettles with a sieve and add them with the spices to the onion and garlic. Give the whole lot a good go in the processor 'til they become a paste.
Turn them out in a bowl and mix enough flour in so that you can make them into balls and they'll hold together. We eat low-carb so we're working towards minimal flour - a couple of tablespoons should do.
Step 2: Cook Them!
Now you can form the green goo into balls and carefully lower them into a wok with hot oil. I got a bit scared so I didn't use too much oil - I'm guessing that if you have a deep fat fryer that would do a really good job. Once they start going brown round the edges, use a slotted spoon to lift them out onto paper towel and blot some of the oil off.
They are lovely with dips, either hot or cold.
Please comment and let me know what you think!