Monday, July 20, 2009

a nettle delight that you won't find on masterchef

Masterchef is over and hopefully we won’t have to hear the word “journey” (unless it’s in conjunction with some mode of transport) for a very long time.

I neither loved nor loathed the series, was not so secretly pleased that the finale was duked out between two grown up women (rather than an over confident bloke or a darling young 20 year old) but was saddened to hear that it really hasn’t inspired a generation of children to cook. According to a tweet by Stephanie Alexander, a formidable authority on all things to do with healthy food and young people, kids were more inspired to cook by the ads than the show itself.

@GrowCookEat: Masterchef claim that kids turned onto real food. From a class of 22, 8 told me they cooked chocolate cupcakes inspired by Betty Crocker ad.

I would have liked to see more cutting edge cookery, especially in the last week. So I present for you the key ingredient I would have selected for a mystery box challenge – nettles! And lets add a twist; the dish needs to be vegan as well. Come on, it’s the final week lets up the ante a bit more – lets make sure its is gluten-free to boot.

This is my humble offering, harvesting my only current backyard crop of abundance. Having earmarked small footprint family’s intriguing nettle pate, I had a flashback to another herb and avocado spread that I had earlier concocted. What I whipped up is a hybrid of the pate and my detox parsley pesto.

Nettle, nut and avocado dip

5 cups (approx) fresh, or 2 cups steamed, nettles
1/2 cup pistachio nuts (soaked and dried if you want to release extra goodness)
1/2 cup walnuts (optionally soaked as above)
1 large avocado
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1/2-1 tsp coriander (cilantro) seeds, roasted and ground
1/2-1 tsp cumin seeds, roasted and ground
pinch of salt
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon young (shiro) miso

Carefully harvest your nettles, choosing the young tops if you can. Wash well and shake dry. Place in a large pot on low heat with no extra water. Keep lid on and shake every few minutes. It should take about 10 minutes to steam the nettles in this manner. Once cooked drain off any excess water.

Roast and grind the cumin and coriander seeds with a pinch of salt.

Pulse nuts in a food processor til semi crushed. If you go to far they will become nut butter. Add the garlic, ground spices, avocado, and lemon juice process some more. Now throw in the drained nettles and miso paste. Blend to the desired consistency, I like my nuts to still have some texture but its up to you. Season with additional salt and lemon juice, to taste if needed.

The dip goes well with crudités or rice crackers. There is a hint of the green grassy taste of nettles but be assured there is no sting.

Who knows, maybe next year nettles rather than tonka beans will be the must have herb of the season.

If you have no nettles consider using some steamed spinach, radiccio, rocket a bunch of your favourite fresh green herbs.

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Blogger Ed said...

I quite enjoys the show but still managed to leave the house. I found the mixed messages about produce annoying and then the contestants having to use packet stock. Also too much of the cookery used fancy gadgets such as Thermomixers that cost $1800 - how on earth can the public buy into that?
To move on, I've been banned from growing nettles.

3:09 pm  
Blogger prue said...

I think you summed up accurately how many people felt about Masterchef, no love, no hate, just not much wow. Ode to Stephanie Alexander, I love what she is doing in schools in promoting gardening/cooking. I also love this nettle recipe you've provided, but alas no nettles in the balcony garden. Some spinach and rockets though! Will have to give it a whirl.

3:50 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

I resisted saying too much on the blog or twitter about the contestants. They are brave souls to put themselves on the line like that and the problem with reality tv is that you tend to forget they are just average people (well maybe not in Masterchef's case) and they have feelings. Of course they go home and google themselves, how ouchy it is to hear total stranger pour out venom about you. Got to remember that the show is edited to within an inch of its life and we are only seeing the aspects of the players, as the producers wish to manipulate us to.

Err but that said, though the winner appears to be a lovely person (in a christian, mumsy kind of way) I have no idea how she didn't get eliminated with uncooked meat and puddle pie etc. I'd not watch whole weeks of the show and when I turned on next I'd be surprised that she was still there. And how on earth can she run a restaurant without crying all the time?

Phew, that feels better :)

4:23 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Ed - do you reckon the sale of blast freezers have gone ballistic in the last week? Nettles - if you are in the neighbourhood I can harvest you some as I know you really like them - but it needs to be quick as there are a few seeds developing (and if the SE got his way he has uses for them that don't involve cooking...)

Pure - Welcome. I adore Stephanie Alexander, she is just so darn sensible and a great cook as well. I cried when I read her diary of the year she closed her restaurant. Let me know how the different greens work out or just adapt the parsley pesto recipe (though must admit I liked the miso in this one, just a hint of sweetness).

4:27 pm  
Anonymous Lucy said...

Oh, my.

Well, the best ideas (my nettle babies are far too young, yet) I've been able to come up with are from Richard Corrigan's 'The Clatter of Forks and Spoons'. In and among all the butter, cream and pork he has a stunner of a soup using nettles, fresh horseradish and scallops. He also uses nettles for a version of Champ, something I think you've got hidden in your archive.

I didn't really get into Masterchef - the initial stages kinda irritated me ('personality building' stuff never really works for me) and by then, I'd lost interest. I'm very pleased it was down to two laydees, but then, I don't think I'm all that keen on the sort of food Julie seems to cook.

Another thing: Random House (the publisher in question) don't actually make cookbooks here. Sure, they distribute some international beauties (Moro is, for example, one of theirs) but they don't publish themselves. If I were Julie, I'd want someone like Murdoch (or Lantern...mmm...Julie Gibbs...).

Enough. Want the pate for lunch, I do.

9:35 am  
Blogger Johanna said...

I would love to taste this - just the wonderful green colour is tempting enough and those flavours sound amazing!

As for MasterChef there were parts to enjoy and many irritants too - those adverts really bugged me - can you believe that there is even a recipe on the website with cake mix as one of the main ingredients!

I was glad to see two grown women in the final too - the producers must have been pleased to have a winner with recipes that the viewers would make and relate to - coincidence? It will be interesting to hear what happens to the five finalists now.

9:50 am  
Anonymous penny said...

hmmm.... nettle pesto. :) I will try this out!

8:23 pm  
Blogger Jimmy said...

this green recipe seems nutritious and tasty..Thanks for the sharing

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10:23 pm  
Anonymous Arwen from Hoglet K said...

That looks like the way to eat nettles! I've had them boiled and found them pretty mediocre.

6:27 pm  

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