Monday 9 April 2012

Frugal cooking: turn the weeds into a healthy meal!

If you follow my blog, you might have noticed I do enjoy experimenting with unusual ingredients. After an extravagance of the Easter dinner, I am turning my attention to the humble nettle and ground elder that grow in abundance in my garden (mea culpa, I am a very sporadic gardener and do let weeds take over some parts of my garden).
My Mum who was born in 1944 remembers how her Grandma used to pick up wild herbs to make soup. She was growing up in a poor village in the Russian south after all the devastation of the battles with the Nazi. The gardens were destroyed, and people were foraging for food. Young nettle leaves and ground elder were eaten regularly. Ground elder when young can be added to salads or cooked like spinach. It doesn't need a lot of cooking.
Inspired by Liz Knight and her foraging stories on Twitter, I ventured in the garden with the scissors and plastic gloves (for the nettles) and picked up a decent bunch of both the ground elder and the tops of the nettles (you really want only the young small leaves).

To make the soup you will need (for 4 people)
2 medium potatoes
1 medium tomato
1 small carrot
1 stock cube (or 1 tsp if you use a Marigold powdered stock)
a handful of the ground elder
a handful of the nettles
1tbsp of red lentils

Start your soup by slicing the potatoes and carrots, put them in the pan and cover with the water, bring to boil and add a stock cube (I like Heinz vegetable stock cube that is usually sold in the baby food isles). Add the lentils. Chop the nettles and add to the pan. Cook for about 15-20 minutes on slow. Add the chopped elder 3-5 minutes before the end.
Add the chopped chives just before serving.
It will be lovely with a spoonful of the creme fraiche or a boiled egg (half an egg per person), but that is optional.
Now you have it: your frugal soup. You turn the humble weeds into a lovely meal, and these ingredients will cost you nothing.

And if you love to save some money while enjoying the good food, follow Frugal Food Fridays challenge created by the wonderful blogger Fuss Free Flavours. This month's roundup is hosted by the lovely Utterly Scrummy Foor For Families blog.


  1. I have tried this. It wasnt the nicest thing i've had, i must admit.

  2. I actually enjoyed it. :) going to try recipes from The Guardian from last Saturday, more of the nettle soup varieties, but I can understand it is not everyone's cuppa tea.

  3. I've never tried cooking with nettles but would love to try this. I'd also like to know more about and be confident enough to go out foraging. Well done for making this.