One of my absolute favourite ways to enjoy wild stinging nettles is in pancakes. They are popular in Nordic countries, where they’re eaten for lunch and dinner, and spinach can be substituted if you can’t forage for nettles. Nordic pancakes are similar to French crêpes in size and texture. However, sometimes we make small ones, and we cook the pancakes until brown in colour, with a lacy, crispy edge. I serve these pancakes with jam, but I have also tried them with sour cream and smoked salmon, as well as sprinkled with sugar, and all versions are delicious.
- 600 ml milk
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 165 g plain flour
- 45 g butter, melted, plus extra for frying
- 1 litre loosely packed stinging nettle leaves or English spinach (see note), washed
- lingonberry or cranberry jam, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time 30 minutes
Place the milk, eggs and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Gradually add the flour, then the melted butter, whisking until the batter is smooth. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. (As the batter rests, bits of butter may rise to the surface. Don’t worry; just give the batter a good mix before frying.)
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the nettles and cook for 10-30 seconds or until blanched. Remove the nettles and refresh under cold running water or plunge into iced water. Drain and squeeze the blanched nettles to remove as much water as possible.
Finely chop the nettles and stir into the pancake batter. Heat a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add a knob of butter and a ladle of the batter, and tilt pan to spread; we’re looking for a relatively thin pancake, about 2 mm thick and 10 cm in diameter. Cook for 1 minute or until set and browned. Flip over and cook for a further 1 minute or until brown. Transfer the pancake to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding a knob of butter in between each pancake.
Serve the pancakes warm with jam.
• If you're new to foraging for wild plants, stinging nettles are the perfect plant to begin with; they're easy to identify and grow in abundance. There are a couple of things to keep in mind though. Wear gloves when you pick nettles as they sting when touched. Pick the top 4-6 leaves of each plant; this way, the nettles continue to grow all summer long. Don’t forage stinging nettles near roads, compost bins, or possibly polluted areas, as the plants absorb harmful nitrogen from soil and air. Remember to use gloves or tongs when you’re handling stinging nettles. You can get rid of the sting by boiling or crushing the plants after which they can be handled without the fear of that nasty stinging sensation. And most importantly when foraging, don’t forage or eat any plants, mushrooms, or berries that you can’t identify with 100 per cent certainty. This is not the time to experiment, as the results may be, in the worst case, fatal.