Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Escapee Beasts, Nettle Soup, Home Brewing.

We had a rude awakening this morning by Elder Son shouting from the milking parlour for the Farmer to get up as the young steers we had moved yesterday had escaped from their field and were now in the garden of the farmhouse! The Farmer leapt out of bed, donned his clothes in double quick time, urged me to do the same and dashed off downstairs. As I joined him, very blearily, with KT in the same state coming over from the cottage where she & Elder Son live, the boisterous beasts were trampling over the daffodils in the back garden and wondering where they could rampage next. Elder Son had come up from the parlour and headed them towards the garden gate while the Farmer had set off down the drive to guide them into their field again. KT & I were strategically positioned to prevent them going down onto the yard. However, being teenage males the steers had other ideas and clambered up the bank at the back of the garden, crashed through a fence and into the field above the house. At least they were now in a field albeit the wrong field. The Farmer & the faithful Molly (our sheepdog) went off  to put the naughty boys back in their rightful place.
How they escaped is a mystery; the gate that they had opened was secure when we left it yesterday. At least they came back to the farm buildings...it could have been a real nightmare if they had turned the other way and ended up on the main road, which has happened in the past and is not something we want to deal with again.

So, after the unexpected early start to the day the dogs & I went off to gather nettles for soup for lunch. I have found a good recipe for nettle soup and it seems such a waste not to use ingredients that are growing so abundantly in our hedgerows.

Lady Ridley's Nettle Soup                                       

1lb potatoes
1/2lb nettles (the young top leaves)
2oz. butter
11/2 pints chicken or vegetable stock
sea salt & black pepper to taste
4 tablespoons sour cream (Optional. Milk or yoghourt will suffice)

Peel & cube the potatoes and cook for 10 minutes in salted water.
Chop the nettles and saute them in the butter and then stew for 5 minutes or so until soft.
Add the potatoes and the stock.
Simmer for 10 minutes and then puree.

This soup is the most gorgeous green in colour and served with fresh wholemeal bread makes a good filling meal.  I have just served this lunch to our Soil Association inspector and  it is always very reassuring when second helpings are asked for.
Nettles are of course very nutritious and grow everywhere though one should not pick them them if they are growing near a busy road-side. From a field hedge or in a wood is ideal.

The Farmer is going to try making nettle beer. He's got very keen again on home-brewing and was delighted to find a stash of demi-johns up in a loft in one of the buildings the other day that had been forgotten.The warmest corner of the kitchen by the Rayburn will be full of bubbling glass jars containing a variety of concoctions that one hope will be drinkable. Its not always guaranteed though!

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