Monday, August 27, 2012

Stinging Nettle and Borage Tart


One of our most memorable meals came about spontaneously. We were at the Vic Markets with a friend when we saw big bunches of borage. ‘I once saw a recipe for borage and stinging nettle ravioli,’ I said. 'Oh?' said my friend, 'There are lots of stinging nettles at the property...' - his country block about an hour's drive out of Melbourne. There was a moment’s pause, then we looked at each other and grinned.

It was time for a day trip. We bought the borage and some ricotta; we bought provisions for a picnic; and then we headed up to North Blackwood, sat ourselves atop our favourite ridge, and ate lunch. After a necessary snooze, we wandered down the hill with rubber gloves and shopping bags and picked stinging nettles.

Much, much later, we drove back to Melbourne. There, we whipped up our ravioli in a matter of hours, and sat down to a spectacular and quite possibly very drunken dinner some time close to midnight.

The things you do when you have no kids.

And yet last week, as I was walking between kinder and school, I found a patch of stinging nettles growing on a verge in a quiet street. The shoots were vibrantly green, bursting with health, and I remembered our long-ago dinner with a smile.

Despite having no gloves I grasped the nettle, so to speak. I always carry a bag for spontaneous gleaning, and so I carefully wrapped the young tips of the nettles in the fabric of the bag and pinched them off, clump by clump. One or two stings were enough to remind me I was alive; bag full, I headed off to school with the makings of dinner, a happy memory and a whistle.

Stinging Nettle and Borage Tart

For the pastry
- 120g plain flour (I used spelt; I’ve also used White Wings GF flour which has turned out good enough for ordinary mortals, if not for a French pastry chef.)
- 60g unsalted butter
- 3 tbs cold water
- pinch salt

For the filling
- 200g stinging nettle tops (before they have gone to seed)
- 200g borage leaves
- a handful of sweet marjoram, if it grows in your garden
- 150g cheddar cheese
- 6 eggs
- 1 ½ cups milk (low fat is fine)
- a sprinkling of pine nuts (optional, but good)
- 100g sea salt, pepper

Make the pastry: (This is exactly the same base as Onion Tart.) Place the flour, a pinch of salt and the butter in a food processor. Process for 30 seconds, or until the butter and flour are incorporated; there will be no loose flour flying around. Add the water a tablespoon at a time, and process for another 30 seconds to a minute or until the mixture resembles tiny soft pebbles.

Flour the bench and a rolling pin. Tip the pastry onto the bench, and gently form into a flat disc with your hands. Roll it out, rolling from the centre to the edge and turning 90 degrees between each roll, until it fits your dish. (Mine is 25cm in diameter.) Drape the pastry over the rolling pin and lift it carefully into the dish. Pat into place. Trim the edges. Place the dish into the freezer, and leave it there until you need it.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Use kitchen scissors to snip the nettle leaves from their stems. Cut the thick stems from the borage.

Boil a pot of water. Wash your greens well, and chop coarsely. Blanch the greens in several batches, cooking each batch for a minute then scooping it out to drain in a colander. Leave to cool.

Grate the cheese. Beat the eggs lightly, then whisk in the milk and marjoram. Season. Remove the tart shell from the freezer. Spread the grated cheese over the base. Spoon the greens over the cheese, then gently pour in the egg mixture. Strew pine nuts over the top, if you wish, then slip the tart into the oven for 45 minutes or until the top is puffy and there is just a very slight wobble in the centre.

Leave to cool for at least ten minutes, during which time it will set further. Serve with a crunchy sort of salad on the side.

I am indebted to Jamie Oliver for the particular combination of stinging nettles, borage leaves and marjoram, which features in a ravioli recipe in The Naked Chef.

(Backyard: borage, eggs, marjoram. Gleaned locally: stinging nettles. Locally sourced: milk. Not particularly local: flour, butter, cheese, pine nuts, salt, pepper.)

The Naked Chef

1 comment:

  1. Looks fabulous - will have to forage for some nettles. They are growing in the yard so should also be out there in the wild!