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Nettle pasta

I read recently an article about how it isn't just the quantity of fruits and vegetables that we eat that matters for our health, but their diversity. The more variety the better - even variety in tiny, tiny amounts counts - bringing vital often quite specific nutrients.

It is research that connects the forager to the mainstream - moves the collecting of wild greens or berries from the "Country Living" lifestyle to something that is much more core and vital. Something that we should all be incorporating where possible perhaps - not in a "wafting through the meadow with our trug" kind of way, or in a survivalist way, but as something much more everyday.

Not as an alternative to the weekly shop, but as an addition.

It inspired me to incorporate nettles into my pasta recipe - I tend to cut nettles to the ground in April so early July always means a new crop of fresh leaves. If you don't have any nettles then spinach, kale, water cress or any cookable greens work too.

Ingredients

  • 200g nettles
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250g plain flour plus extra for kneading (00 flour is the purist's choice but I use bread flour as that is what I have in the house)
  • 3 large egg yolks/4 small ones

Step 1

Pour very cold water into a bowl.

Bring a pan of water to the boil, add salt and then the nettles.

When they turn bright green drain them and then put them straight into the bowl of cold water. This stops them over cooking and keeps the nice bright green colour.

After they have cooled down completely, drain them in a colander - you can keep them like this in the fridge overnight or head to step 2.

drained nettles

Step 2

Finely chop the nettles. They will have lost their sting and the stems should be tender enough to include. I now use a food processor for this, as a friend gave me hers last month, but it is perfectly to just chop very finely by hand.

If using a food processor add the egg yolks to the nettles and mix - then add the flour a tablespoon at a time and gently pulse a little at a time until the mixture forms lumps about the size of a pea. You don't want it to form into a dough in the machine as it will become over processed. Dust the worktop with flour, pour the lumps out onto the worktop and squish into a ball.

If doing it by hand, put most of your flour onto the worktop in a pile and make a hollow dent in the top. Mix the nettles and the yolks in a bowl and pour into the hollow. Then gradually work in the flour, bringing in a little bit of flour at a time - with a movement that is a little like a head massage - until you have a ball of dough. Add more flour if needed - the dough should be firm and not sticky.

Step 3

Knead the dough for ten minutes - adding extra flour every time it gets sticky.

It will become bright green and silky.

At this point you can freeze the dough in portions - wrap in a plastic bag or beeswax wrap and put it in the freezer - or you can cover it with a tea towel, leave for an hour and then move to step 4.

making nettle pasta with a pasta machine

Step 4

Cut your dough into 4 pieces. Leave 3 pieces covered by the tea towel and start to roll the other out repeatedly.

The easiest way to do this is with a pasta machine*. Follow the instructions for the one you have rolling and folding and rolling it until it is thin enough to use as lasagne sheets or to cut as noodles.

To do this without a pasta machine roll your dough into a strip, fold it into three and turn 90 degrees and roll again. Do this 5 times and then cut your strip in half. Make sure worktop is well floured and roll the dough thinner and thinner - until it is 1mm or less - then cut into strips as noodles.

Do the same with the other pieces of pasta dough

Step 5

Hang the noodles or sheets to dry on a clean tea towel over a chair back or similar. After half an hour they are ready to cook but you can also let them dry out completely and store to cook later. A couple of years ago, after a pasta making workshop in Budapest, I dried out the pasta overnight in my hotel room and brought it home in a paper bag where it lasted a few months.

recipe for nettle pasta noodles

To cook the tagliatelle noodles bring a large pan of water to the boil and add salt.

Add pasta and cook until it floats - this can be less than a minute. Drain immediately, dress with sauce and serve.

Sheets of fresh pasta can simply be used in lasagnes as you would usually use dried.

 

*pasta machines are in the top five kitchen gadgets that people buy and then don't ever use. If you don't have one, it is very likely that a friend has one you could borrow.

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Comments: 2 (Add)

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Rosie Mackay

Thank you so much Jane for this recipe. I’d forgotten how good it was to make fresh pasta, I made it years ago & it’s been on my to do list for a while. I love the idea of using fresh nettles, I didn’t know they could be cut down in April for a second crop later. I deliberately leave a patch growing behind a fence for wildlife & use some of the fresh tips for my ‘foraged soup’. Spinach pica pasta is a quick & fun one to make (could perhaps use nettles) but I prefer thinner rolled pasta. Now; must look out the pasta machine.

Snapdragon Jane

Thanks Rosie - when we made pasta at the Hungarian workshop it started off as noodles but somehow on the way home via suitcases and paper bags turned into smaller slightly twisted pieces that simply got added to soups over the next month or so. It made me realise how hung up I had been on shapes and doing things 'properly' whereas it can just be rolled and cut.

Snapdragon social

Stillness is such a difficult skill to acquire.  I suspect that so much of the rushing about that we do is simply an attempt to avoid being still.
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For if we stopped, paid attention to ourselves, to the world around us, let everything sink in - well that might be very scary.
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But I do think it is the most important skill - a five minute pause, a checking in.  I'm not talking about meditation here - nothing as formal as that - just a stilling and listening and paying attention. Appreciation, recognition, renewal.
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It is something that I am very bad at by nature - but I have been taking lessons from Dixie. 

For if a spaniel can relax into stillness, nosing into a shaft of sunshine, then I'm sure I can.
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Teasel isn't quite there yet.

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One thing that gardening teaches you year on year is that so much is beyond your control. Some things will thrive, others won’t, and mostly it will be nothing to do with anything you’ve done. 
Some years will be great for one crop, terrible for another. This is a great year for garlic here, awful for beans. 

It’s the same with business - a lot of things happen that are due to the ‘weather’ of the world. We can pivot and turn, change our tactics, Google ‘how to make reels’ and so on - but we can also choose to embrace and lean into what is working well. 

My Friday letter today is about social media and all the ways I’ve used to connect with people over the past 21 years - if you fancy a read you can sign up in my profile. 

And in the meantime I’d love to know what’s growing well for you. Or indeed, what has been a disaster! 

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Each year I have a personal project running.  Something just for me. Something that allows me to experiment and play. 
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The first year that I became obsessed with using the plants here to dye textiles - back in 2019 - it was twelve skeins of a raw slubby silk yarn that I  had been hoarding for decades. They became a patchwork cable blanket that now sits on the back of the sofa.
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In 2020 it was double knitting yarns, in dozens of colours, knitted into a stripy jumper to keep me cosy in the Studio.
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Last year I dyed linens and am gradually making them into patchworks and appliqués - many I am squirrelling away for a project that I may or may not ever begin.
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This year I am using mini skeins - in an attempt to keep it more manageable - and exploring the differences in colour caused by the pH of the original extraction. 
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There are four skeins for each plant, two for neutral extraction, two for alkali - with one of each pair being dipped in iron to 'sadden' the colour.
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If science had been like this at school I might have paid more attention . . . .

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This is a tomato salad that was inspired by one I ate a few years ago in a cafe in Mingun, Myanmar,
There it was mainly made with green tomatoes, sharp against the shrimp powder.
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In Myanmar the military junta have begun to execute activists arrested after the coup in February 2021. The brutality and violence continue, the quashing of democracy, the corruption. 

11,759 people, arrested after the coup, remain in detention, 78 people, including two children, have been sentenced to death.
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You won't usually find much out about Myanmar in the 'fed to you' media, but this week there has been reporting and a Dispatches programme about mass killings  was on Channel 4 on Monday.  The Guardian has consistently been the newspaper reporting most on the aftermath of the coup and you can also follow hashtags like #whatishappeninginmyamar here. 
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There may seem little we can actively do about the horrors in the world, but people involved always say that what matters is knowing that people care, bear witness and don’t simply forget when the news cycle moves on.
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If you walk through the garden in the evening at the moment, the scent of Lilium regale drifts about you in eddies of spice.

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The more I travel down this road the more I realise that deciding how you live, which values you honour, what you will prioritise all have to be deliberately chosen. 
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You can’t just drift into a slower, more intentional life. 
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You can’t buy it. 
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You have to make a commitment to actually live it. 
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It is why I go to events like last weekend’s summer camp @thegoodlifesoc . 
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It is also why I surround myself with a supportive community where my choices don’t seem weird.

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This is the actual physical Studio.
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It is a little cabin between meadow and wood - a space for creativity and connection a space that I deliberately and intentionally worked towards for a number of years.  There is a sunny deck looking onto trees for the summer, a wood burning stove for the winter.
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The Studio is also another thing - it is a club of amazing people who are intentionally prioritising their creativity and connection to the natural world. 
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It is a community of great humour, support and inspiration - the best thing that I have ever had a hand in.
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The Studio Club is closed to new members at the moment and the doors will open to new members again on the Autumn Equinox. 

I'm currently working with @fbarrows, who is providing a gentle and encouraging outside eye, as I decide on what we will be doing in the club over the next six months.
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If you get it, it would help me so much if you could take a minute to fill it out - there are only five questions and there is also a bribe . . . .

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My Friday Letter this week is all about taking advantage of some unwanted early wakening and starting to use the binoculars which have been hanging on the coat rail for eighteen months.
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Twenty minutes with a cup of tea, the binoculars and a lawn full of early birds and their worms.

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In the Studio Club I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

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