Creamy Vegan Nettles Soup with Kale & Cauliflower
Let’s talk about self-care.
I happen to be at the beach currently. On my sleepy early morning walk through the marshy thoroughfare I take to get to the sandy shoreline, only one subject came to mind: self-care is something you cultivate. It's a subject I've thought on endlessly for many years. As I made my way to the ocean, letting the sparkling clear water wash over my bare feet, I thought to myself: self-loveis so essential to the healing process.
For most humans, self-love is not innate. It’s something we consciously have to choose to do. And self-love is certainly not something that is particularly comfortable. Especially for women in our culture. We’re constantly told — through media and otherwise — that we must disapprove of and hate our bodies and our very Selves.
So, today, I’m challenging myself and everyone — especially women — to work on an attitude of gratitude and love for your Self. Even if you don’t feel well today. Even if you’re inner critic is telling you you’re not good enough, not worthy enough, not skinny enough to love.
Look at that inner-critic right in the face and say “I love you. I love you enough to not let you control me.” And then put your hands over your heart, close your eyes and say to yourself: “I love you. You’re good enough. You’re beautiful. You’re lovable.”
Say it over and over again. Until you feel it. That could be 10 seconds or 10 minutes. Somedays it’s easy. Other days it’s hard. But it gets easier. And after a while, that self-love starts to become innate. It’s a good daily practice even for well-balanced, confidant and heart-centric beings.
Self-care starts from a place of self-love. Without the will to love and accept yourself as you are right now, yoga / acupuncture / massage / counseling / meditation / dance… they lack an essential depth.
So give yourself the gift of looking yourself in the face, saying you’re worthy and I love you.
Now, on to a healing and nourishing wild nettles soup recipe to feed your limitless beauty!
A Wild and Lovely Nettles Soup
Nettles tastes like a mix between spinach and fresh cucumber. In other words, very mild! For that reason nettles shine best in simple recipes, as too much "stuff" gets in the way of tasting the subtle nuance of this wild food. Nettles are particularly good paired with dairy or coconut cream. They're often blended into pestos, reduced into creamy pasta sauces and folded into fresh bread. But most commonly nettles make their way into soups!
The heart of this soup is fresh nettles, caramelized onion and cauliflower paired with a bit of coconut cream. It feels magically Irish to me. Partly due to the fabulous green color (I can imagine children running in fear). And partly because my Irish friend was in total awe of this soup when I served it to her during a recent hang-out. Plus Wikipedia tells me nettle soup is popular in Ireland, so… go intuition!
I got the idea for this creamy, savory nettles soup recipe from a farmer friend of mine (also the woman I bought my nettles from!). She suggested cooking it up with stock, potatoes, onion and a dash of cream. So, naturally, I took that idea and tweaked it to my tastes! I decided to go for cauliflower instead of potatoes, veg instead of chicken stock and full fat coconut cream instead of dairy.
Nettles: Nutrition and Healing Wild Energy
Wild foods, nettles included, are higher in concentrations of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals than cultivated counterparts. Kale, chard, spinach... none of them hold a candle to the myriad of nourishing and healing properties in a serving nettles.
Nettles has been used for hundreds of years as a diuretic and to treat aching joints and muscles. Nettles are anti-inflammatory and contain a natural anti-histamine which can aid in reducing the effects of allergies. Nettles have traditionally been used to treat gout, eczema, arthritis, anemia and urinary and prostrate issues. Nettles are high in antioxidants (you can tell just from that deep green color!). And contain a complex of Vitamins C & A as well as manganese, potassium, calcium and iron. Hows that for eating your greens!
Along those lines, I personally feel that eating wild traditional foods is a salve for the soul. This soup is particularly grounding and enriching! It calms my nerves and just makes you go ah, now that's what I needed!
Buying & Harvesting Nettles
For this recipe we're using whole, fresh nettles. Fresh nettles are not easy to come by in the US at shops. You either have to have a hook up to a forager, live in some magical city where you can get nettles at the farmers market, or go on a little wander yourself.
In my region -- Central Virginia -- the best way to buy nettles is to contact professional foragers, gardeners and farmers and ask if they will sell you some. Plant-professionals often know where to find nettles. And even if they can't personally sell you any, they may know of some patches you can harvest from yourself.
I know in some areas of the country you can buy seasonal nettles at farmers markets. Another trick: if you see fresh nettles on restaurant menus consider asking the owner or manager how you can get your hands on some!
I personally buy my nettles from a gardener who lives on a big plot of land out in Nelson County. Although I saw loads of them on a recent mountain hike!
If you’re collecting your own nettles, bring scissors, a couple of layered plastic bags and thick gardening gloves. Nettles grow from early spring to early summer, but like asparagus are best in early spring. Smaller plants are more tender and sweet.
Firstly, harvest compassionately: only collect nettles from areas where there are 20 or more plants around. Leave the biggest plant to seed for the following season. Leave damaged plants and plants with infestations behind. To harvest: Put on your gloves. Use your scissors to snip off the portion you want to harvest (don’t take more than you need). Grab the handfuls carefully and stuff the stems top-leaf pointing down into your bag (the top-most leaves are tricksy stingers!).
When preparing your nettles for eating, wash your nettles carefully whilst wearing your gloves. Strip the nettles from the stems backwards the way you would strip mint from the stem, top to bottom. If you don’t have gloves you could always snip off each leaf one at a time, using the scissors to lift each leaf into your heavy bottomed pot. Add the nettles to your pot, cover with broth or water, place a lid on the pot and bring to a rolling boil for at least 10 minutes to ensure the prickers are cooked down. Voila!
Creamy Vegan Nettles Soup with Kale and Cauliflower
Created by Renee on May 27, 2016
Note: for fastest cook time start the nettles and onion at the same time. And for an extra satisfying umph I tend to eat this with a can of chickpeas added to the mix at the very end OR I’ll serve it with some fresh toasted sourdough bread doused in ghee!
- Cook Time: 30m
- Total Time: 30m
- Serves: 4
- 1 large onion, roughly chopped
- 1 large head cauliflower, stem & greens removed, chopped roughly into 1” pieces
- 2 tablespoons ghee or coconut oil
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/8 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
- 1 large bunch nettles ~ 4 cups loosely packed leaves
- 2 cups kale, chopped and loosely packed
- 1/2 cup minced button mushrooms
- 9 cups homemade or low-sodium vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoons coconut cream (skimmed from the top of a can of chilled full fat coconut milk)
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt + more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- optional garnish: fresh chopped basil and fennel
- Set a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion and dry-fry, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to caramelize and blacken. Add the cauliflower, ghee / coconut oil and water. Cover but leave the lid slightly ajar to let the steam release. Cook for another 10 minutes. Remove the top and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently. The cauliflower will soften and caramelize along with the onions and get a deep, rich flavor.
- Carefully snip the leaves of the nettles from the stem, rinse well and drain.
- Fill a heavy bottomed soup pot with the nettles, kale, mushrooms and vegetable stock. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a rolling boil for 10 minutes.
- Add the coconut cream, vinegar, maple syrup, red chili pepper, salt and pepper. Add half of the cooked cauliflower and onion to the pot. Using an immersion blender, blend everything in the pot together until smooth and creamy. Add the rest of the cooked cauliflower onion. Serve hot with a drizzle of smooth coconut cream! Garnish with basil and fennel.