The stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are coming up: wonderful habitat for invertebrates, itchy feet for our dogs and free food for us. Try nettle soup, easy to make, nutritious and very tasty.
Choose the newest leaves for your soup, just the growing tips of the plant, where the flavour is at its best, and always make sure that the plants have not been sprayed with any weedkiller or pesticide. New nettles are fearsome stingers so don’t forget your gloves, and remember to check the underside of the leaves for peacock butterfly eggs before you pick them.
Peacock butterfly eggs  and adult 
- 1 tbsp olive oil , plus extra for drizzling;
- 1 onion , chopped;
- 1 carrot , diced;
- 1 leek , washed and finely sliced;
- 1 large floury potato (Maris Piper or similar), thinly sliced;
- 1 litre of vegetable stock;
- 400g stinging nettles leaves, washed and picked from the stems;
- 50g butter;
- 50ml double cream.
Choose young nettles for this recipe  or the growing tips of plants that have yet to flower; if the nettles have flowered , the leaves are coarser, harder to blend and less flavourful.
- STEP 1
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, leek and potato, and cook for 10 mins until the vegetables start to soften. Add the stock and cook for a further 10-15 mins until the potato is soft.
- STEP 2
Add the nettle leaves, simmer for a couple on minutes to wilt them, then blend the soup to your preferred consistency; I use a stick blender. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, then stir in the butter and half the double cream. Serve the soup drizzled with the extra oil and the other half of the cream.