This recipe for Nettle and Pine Nut Parcels with Whipped Feta marks the start of the spring foraging season. They’re relatively quick and easy to make, using some store cupboard ingredients.
Bronzed and crisp flaky pastry bites, filled with new season nettles, sautéed onion and garlic, with a hint of spice from the smokey paprika. In addition, toasted pine nuts and sweet sticky dates. A delicious snack in its own right but exceptional served with rich, velvety whipped feta.
I have plenty of childhood memories of being stung by nettles – I grew up in the countryside and they were seemingly everywhere! Being the adventurous, outdoor-loving child that I was, getting stung was unavoidable.
However in spite of their vicious stinging tendencies, nettles are one of nature’s powerhouse greens and well worth the effort to forage for. Nettle leaves provide a wide variety of nutrients including vitamins A, C and K and some B vitamins. Minerals too; calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Not only are they good for us they are a valuable food source for butterflies and the sting forms a protective shield against grazing animals for insects.
So, the downside to foraging nettles is, of course, the risk of being stung. The job requires a thick pair of gloves, (I use my rubber washing-up gloves). Now is the best time to forage for them, when the plants are young, pick the new tender leaves and the tips. It is important to remember that older parts of the plant, particularly the stalks, will be fibrous and not good for cooking.
At home, the best method for handling them safely is again gloves or tongs, remove them from your basket and rinse with cold water in a colander. Then drop them into a pan of boiling salted water, the heat will defuse the sting immediately. They’re now ready to use.
Nettles can be utilised in all sorts of ways. The leaves can be treated like spinach, especially with regards to making sautéed greens, as a side dish or tossed through pasta. They’re also delicious added to broths and pureed in soup.
With social distancing measures in place, we’ll be spending more time outdoors this Easter with friends and family. These Nettle and Pine Nut Parcels with Whipped Feta are the perfect prepare ahead snack that can be shared before a barbecue.
Nettle & Pine Nut Parcels with Whipped Feta
- 100 g feta
- 80 g Greek-style yogurt
- 1 tbls extra virgin olive oil
- 100 g young nettle leaves rinsed
- 1 small onion finely sliced
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- ½ tsp pimenton I like the hot one
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1 ½ tbls pine nuts toasted
- 3 soft dates pitted & finely chopped
- 4-5 sheets filo pastry depending on the size
- 25 g butter melted
- 1-2 tbls black sesame seeds
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C fan.
- In a food processor bowl or blender combine the feta and yogurt, blitz until very smooth, scraping down sides as necessary. Add the olive oil and stir to incorporated. Pour into a bowl and cover until needed.
- Remove any stalks from the nettles wearing rubber gloves. Have a saucepan ready with boiling salted water on the hob. Drop the nettles in and boil for 30-60 seconds. Drain and run under cold water. Squeeze out all the excess water. You'll be left with approximately a handful. Place on a wooden board and chop. Set to one side until needed.
- Heat a medium saucepan with the olive oil, add the cumin and fry on medium for a minute or two. Add the sliced onion and saute for 5 minutes with the lid partially on until soft and without colour. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes on medium low. Now add the pimenton, chopped dates and nettles, then stir and saute for a few minutes longer. Add a little extra olive oil if the mixture seems dry. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and add the pine nuts. Cool.
- Melt the butter, brush a sheet of filo and cut it lengthways into 3 or 4 strips. Put a teaspoon of the mix at the bottom of each strip and fold each over diagonally to make a triangle, then continue to fold over and up the length of the pastry. Repeat with the remaining filling and pastry. Arrange the parcels on a baking sheet and brush the tops with more butter. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 16-18 minutes, or until they’re golden brown.
- Serve warm with whipped feta.
- Make the Nettle and Pine Nut Parcels a day ahead, refrigerate or freeze un-baked, place on a tray lined with parchment paper and cover until needed.
- Whipped Feta can also be made in advance, up to 2 days and stored in the fridge.
April is almost upon us, look out for wild garlic in damp woodland areas. You could then make this Wild Garlic, Asparagus & Camembert Tart.