My First Encounter With Nettles
I’ve always been intrigued by unfamiliar things…the uncommon, the unseen. As a creative I am continually pushing boundaries and trying new things, which is why cooking is such a first love!
As far as intriguing ingredients, stinging nettles definitely fit in that category for me. Actually, I should share my first encounter with nettles because it’s a great story…really great.
Last Autumn I was in Germany. One morning I woke up before dawn to go adventuring with Marta and Eva into the forest. You can read all about our time together here.
When we got to the German countryside, we were setting up for the shoot, and I went to the edge of the forest to gather some greenery for the table we were styling. I saw this beautiful vine-like plant and thought it would just be so perfect.
I reached down for it and soon as I touched it I felt the craziest shock through my fingers. It was so painful – For the next few days actually! And the only thing that would remedy the sharp pain was lavender essential oil, which thankfully I always travel with. So truly, though…it was such a rude awakening, especially as I was insanely sleep deprived at the time due to traveling from Croatia the day before.
Eva and Marta quickly informed me that out of every beautiful plant or bush in the forest, that I so perfectly had decided to grab stinging nettles! We all had a good laugh to say the least. I’ve never forgotten about nettles and I certainly took note at the plant’s characteristics so I could avoid future contact!
Nettles in Cooking!
Fast forward to spring on the West Coast, and I kept seeing my former friend, stinging nettle, at our local market. Being the adventurous creative I am, I couldn’t help but give this guy another chance and bring it home to my studio and experiment (with gloves handy of course!).
I asked our community on ideas and got so much great feedback! We had several requests for a nettle pesto, from @marisalammes, @jennifer.white, @fxmaman and @bakerindisguise. And then @marcellerogers‘ beautiful story and suggestion pulled it all together for me!
She shared how her and hubby enjoyed a nettle risotto in the victorian alps years ago. I knew that I wanted to do a spin off this savory main course and translate it to breakfast, for a spring nettle breakfast bowl. Instead of risotto, I wanted to use quinoa and toss that fresh pesto into a bowl and top it with all sorts of veggies and of course poached eggs (my new obsession).
I hope you enjoy this recipe, and thanks to everyone who contributed to it’s creation! If you want to learn more in depth about nettles and gain some great tips, check out this post. Feel free to comment below if you have any questions, tips or suggestions! Always love hearing from you.
Spring Nettle Breakfast Bowl with Pesto
Yield 1 bowl
- 693 g (3 cups) filtered water
- 265 g (1 1/2 cups) quinoa, rinsed
- 2, 3 minute poached eggs
- 47 g cooked (2-3 large, raw "tongfuls") of stinging nettle leaves, de-stemmed* (if measuring with stems, then 3-5 tongfuls)
- 69 g (1/3 cup) olive oil
- 1/2 avocado
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, fresh squeezed
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
Bowl Assembly (1 portion)
- 2/3 cup cooked quinoa
- 1/2 cup or small handful of purple kale, sautéed and steamed
- 1 sweet potato (6-10 wedges per bowl)
- 1/2 avocado
- 1-2 poached eggs
- 1-3 small roasted carrots
- 2 tablespoons spring onion, or any variety, chopped
- 3 tablespoons nettle pesto (or more if you like!)
- olive oil
- sea salt
- pea shoots
- sprinkle of lemon juice
- black sesame seeds
To prepare quinoa
For bowl base, start by boiling 3 cups of water. Add rinsed quinoa, stir and cover, lower to a simmer. Cook until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork, set aside.
*Note: You will have leftover quinoa from this recipe, enjoy!
To prepare nettles for pesto
Wear protective gloves and remove nettle leaves from stalks using tongs and scissors, being extremely careful not to touch the nettles. In a medium saucepan, bring water to boil. Rinse nettle leaves thoroughly in water and then place in boiling water for 3-5 minutes, or until leaves have wilted. Remove from water and measure out to approximately 47 grams in weight when cooked. *Note: leaves will be wet from just coming out of the water, try to get rid of excess water before weighing).
To prepare pesto
In a blender, add nettles, oil, avocado, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Puree until smooth. Store in mason jar.
*Note: keeps for up to 10 days in fridge when stored in airtight container. Enjoy on and in everything!!
To poach eggs
Fill small saucepan 2/3rds full of water. Boil on high heat, and lower to maintain a simmer. Add 1-2 teaspoons apple cider, stir. Crack egg into a 1/3 cup measuring cup. Stir water with wooden spoon to create a gentle whirlpool effect. As the water is spinning, gently drop in egg. Start timer for 3 minutes. Remove from water with a slotted spoon, allow excess water to drip, and then place on side plate until ready for bowl assembly.
*Note: To learn more about poaching eggs, see this article.
To prepare sweet potatoes and carrots
To prepare roasted veggies, rinse, cut ends and place on baking sheet. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Drizzle vegetables with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place pan(s) in oven and roast for 30-35 minutes or until soft and golden brown.
To prepare kale
Rinse and tear into pieces. Warm cast iron or similar skillet on medium heat. Toss in kale, drizzle lightly in olive oil, stir with spoon and sautéed for 1 minute. Add a splash of water (about 1 tablespoon), cover immediately and steam for 30 seconds. Remove from heat immediately and set aside.
To assemble bowl
Add quinoa first, top with pesto and stir with spoon. Layer in all toppings and optional garnishes. Finish by drizzling with olive oil, salt and pepper. Serve warm.
I definitely encourage doubling or tripling this recipe (with exception of quinoa, you will already have extra!) so you can make several bowls at once. Store in fridge in individual containers for meals on the go, poaching an egg last minute so it’s fresh.