Does nettle soup bite back?

This post is going to be multifaceted, so get ready. It will include dangerous cooking, of course, but because I was just in Ireland for two weeks, it will be dangerous travel cooking, as well as travel guide, with a splash of “snap to it,” for good measure. There, you’ve had a recipe before we’ve even begun (a recipe for an enjoyable read, that is! Ha ha).

Over 50 years ago, a sense of adventure brought my husband’s parents John and Meta to Canada from a town near Belfast, Northern Ireland. This move worked out very well for me personally, because it not only meant I was able to meet my husband, but also that every few years we’re able to hop across the pond and enjoy the enormously warm hospitality of Phil’s aunts, uncles, and cousins.

This was my fourth trip over – on the first trip, my husband proposed. This time we revisited some of the gorgeous places where ten years ago I thought he might have been reaching for a ring in his pocket.

Would he ask at the 800-year-old Carrickfergus castle, I had wondered hopefully? Nope.


Maybe swaying on the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge? Smart that he didn’t, because it’s much windier than it looks.


Thanks ""

Thanks “”

At the Titanic exhibit? No, it’s actually not romantic, and also it didn’t exist then, but I had to mention it in case you happened to be in the neighborhood. It’s very well done.



Had to be while we were jumping from stone to stone in the Giant’s Causeway … but no.



I began to wonder whether he’d ever ask me, until…

He asked at the bed and breakfast in Sligo (slightly more romantic than the town’s name sounds) and we ate a breakfast that looked like this, so all was well.


More pictures, less talking you say? So here are some pictures of our sail with five kids and four adults through Strangford Lough


Oops, turns out I only snagged one from the camera card and I’m too tired to grab others! Next time.

And we can’t forget Dublin…





Yes, that was a Leprechaun AND Molly Malone in the same shot.

Thanks very much to everyone who made our faces wide with smiles, our bellies full of food, and our spirits overcome with adventure! (That nearly sounded Irish – it rubs off)

And now on to the dangerous food! I can’t remember if I’ve cooked anything that was literally dangerous before, but hey, I figured if you couldn’t try for the first time at your Auntie Molly’s 84th birthday soiree, when could you?



I first heard about nettle soup on Twitter while following chef @tobyelkington ( I had become acquainted with the fact that nettles existed on a previous trip – my daughter had shaken hands with some. For those from my parts of the world where we don’t have them, they don’t call them “stinging nettles,” for nothing. You can imagine I had a few questions back and forth with Toby over Twitter asking how I could protect everyone’s tongues. He patiently explained that after you boil them for a while, the sting disappears. I quietly hoped Toby wasn’t someone with a sick sense of humour. After a plane flight, a pair of gloves, and a tour through the weedy bits of a garden led by Uncle Sam,


I had my nettles.


Probably should have brushed my hair for that shot, but nettle picking is tricky work.

Toby said to only use the tips of the leaves, but since I had left my gloves behind and had to use plastic bags that were less than efficient (ouch!) I just chose bright young leaves, having read elsewhere that those would also do the trick.


But let me share the ingredients before I get ahead of myself, inspired by Toby’s direction:

Stingy nettle soup without the sting

  • 1500mL chicken or veggie stock
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 good sized potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 big handfuls (ouch) of nettle leaves, picked from the stems while wearing gloves, the newer the better

Directions: Heat olive oil in large pot. Add garlic and onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add potatoes and cook another minute or two. Add stock and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer until potatoes are soft when pricked with fork (I am NOT going to tell you exactly how long to cook a potato. If you don’t know how to do this, you’d better leave a comment to tell me on which dark corner of this earth you live). Add nettles and cook 10 minutes or more (I did this longer because I was paranoid, and I sampled it to make sure it was safe).


Puree until smooth.


Results: Nettle soup was a big hit! Auntie Molly said her mother used to suggest it to purify the blood in spring. It was very simple to make and everyone finished their bowls. Even my kids ate it! I would make it again if I had access to nettles, but if not I’m sure spinach would make a satisfactory but lesser substitute. Rating: 5 Yums!

And finally, a note about “Snap to it!” A fellow blogger, Cinnamon, is posting photography challenges, to be answered every Monday, to help photographers of all skill levels learn to take better photos. I’ve completed the first two challenges, but last week I couldn’t find a computer to upload to while I was away. The challenge was “triangles,” so sailing made for great subject matter. Here was my submission, where I played with the camera to shoot into the sun and reduce the exposure:


But hubby Phil, who didn’t read the challenge (and who also took MANY of the shots above), took a super hot triangle shot that trumped mine this week. Don’t worry – I’ll get him next time.


The triumphant photographer



  1. Leave a Reply

    Jackie Dale
    June 3, 2013

    Great article and I am very curious about the soup! Stinging nettle grows in abundance out at my moms! I am going to make it!
    I have learned via Owl & Goose smoothies about the benefits of stinging nettle recently as well.

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      June 3, 2013

      Wow! I have never run into it here! Learn something new every day I guess!

  2. Leave a Reply

    Mike @ Midwestern Bite
    June 3, 2013

    I know we have to have stinging nettle somewhere in our woods, and I’ve definitely looked because I’ve heard it can be tasty. Alas, I haven’t been able to find it… or at least ID it. Thanks for confirming!

    Glad you had a great trip.

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      June 3, 2013

      Well my friend Jackie commented saying we do have them around here, so keep looking! (although since you guys are from the Midwest your “around here” might be entirely different). My kids always manage to find them within seconds of the plane landing in Ireland, so maybe you should send your little guy on a hunt (wearing protective gear, of course)

  3. Leave a Reply

    June 3, 2013

    Awwwwh, how romantic! I loved that. So wait, now I want to know more about the proposal at the B&B. Adorable. Loved the pics and the soup looks yum.

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      June 3, 2013

      Well after I accepted I did remind him he forgot to get down on one knee, so he asked for a do-over…

  4. Leave a Reply

    Joanna @ Midwestern Bite
    June 4, 2013

    I have a few important things to say about this post.

    One. That khaki jacket? Ummmm awesome.

    Two. You went all the way to Ireland for a blog post (sorta.) That’s serious dedication to your craft.

    Three. This post makes me want to paint my front door. And get a viking hat. Not necessarily in that order.

    Four. I like the non hair brushed pic. You have a I-may-have-my-own-cooking-show-but-I’m-also-really-down-to-earth smile going on. We don’t have cable TV so try to get your cooking show on the internet or Netflix or something. K thanks.

    Five. The leprechaun picture reminds me of one of my deep dark desires in life. I really want to stop the car every time I see someone dressed up in costume and get my picture taken with them. Easter Bunny? Yup. Santa Claus? Yup Yup. Guy standing outside a random apartment complex in a Mickey Mouse costume offering a month of free rent. Yup Yup Yup. No I didn’t make that last one up. The sad thing is I’m a big chicken (not a chicken costume mind you) and I never do because I think Mickey Mouse might kidnap me. What? You can’t see their faces so there’s no telling what’s going on in there. Yes, I am the same girl who wants to check out abandoned buildings and my husband has to convince me otherwise. Mickey Mouse is way scarier.

    Six. I may talk too much. Or type to much. Either way I’ll end this now.

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      June 5, 2013

      One. The belt is broken on that jacket so it bugs me. If I get a new one I’ll send you that one.

      Two. A woman’s gotta do…

      Three. The doors in Dublin are class. I think we mostly bought our house because it has a nice wide red one, but it’s still not nearly as old or cool as the Dublin doors.

      Four. Thanks! For me to be on a show they’d have to hook me up to a wine IV.

      Five. Someone on my FB saw Captain Highliner the other day. I should have messaged you. He’s a kidnapper for sure, he doesn’t even hide it well.

      Six. If you didn’t type too much I’d just eat weird stuff and say to myself, “that was weird,” which is kind of anticlimactic. So thanks for typing too much here! (and it’s not too much)

  5. Leave a Reply

    Heather Sccott
    June 6, 2013

    Loved this blog Ann and all the photos,just great! Will have to try the soup if I can get one of the ‘boys’ to pick the nettles. It was good to see you again.

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      June 6, 2013

      You too, Heather!! Thanks so much for being such a fantastic hostess. We all really enjoyed ourselves, and we loved each of our visits with you. Talk soon!!

  6. Leave a Reply

    June 18, 2013

    Lovely pictures Ann! Really enjoying the blog and delighted to see what a great time you had in Ireland! Great to meet you all!

    • Leave a Reply

      Ann Allchin
      June 20, 2013

      Wow, thanks for popping in, Emma! I put two of the cookbooks you recommended on my “birthday list,” so very soon I plan to be cooking from Smitten Kitchen and Home Chef. Great meeting you, and hope you had a stellar vacation!

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