Lemon and Stinging Nettle Cupcakes with Lavender Icing: The flavour of the foraged nettles fades away beneath the zingy lemon, so you’re left with a surprisingly bright green sponge that tastes light and zesty, complimented by the floral icing.
This recipe for lemon and stinging nettle cupcakes first appeared in my monthly Taste Not Waste column about reducing food waste for Vegetarian Living magazine (April 2016).
Recipes don’t often involve rubber gloves until it’s time to do the washing up, but for these cupcakes you’ll need the before you’ve even donned the apron!
Stinging nettles don’t often conjure up thoughts of appetising treats such as cupcakes, but bear with me. These much-maligned weeds are actually nutritional powerhouses that are fantastic in a range of recipes. You can use them much like cooked spinach, but since I love replacing some of the fat and sugar of cakes with vegetables, one of my favourite ways to use them is baked into cupcakes. The flavour of the nettles fades away beneath the zingy lemon, so you’re left with a surprisingly bright green sponge that tastes light and zesty. Plus it’s great knowing that the main ingredient is free and packed with iron and minerals.
When foraging for nettles, you’ll have to take a bit of care. Be sure you know which plants you’re looking for and stay away from areas that might be tainted by car fumes or pesticides. Wear rubber gloves, and pick only the top four to six leaves as they’re more tender.
Nettles are best in early spring when they are young and fresh-tasting, so to take real advantage of these healthy greens, I’d suggest picking, preparing and blanching as much as you can, then keep a supply in the freezer for quick soups and smoothies.
I’m fairly new to the world of foraging, but I love showing my kids how nature provides us with nourishment in surprising places. Although nettles aren’t the easiest food to harvest with young children, we’ve enjoyed hunting for wild garlic to use in salads and pesto, as well as vitamin-rich dandelions from the garden, tearing off their petals to use in bread, honey and biscuits.
So now I actively seek out nettle beds – and try to remember to take a bag and rubber gloves with me when we go on country walks.
Save Our Scraps
Get inventive in the kitchen with these delicious ways to cook your fresh foraged nettles.
* Make nettle soup, it’s probably the most popular way to use these free greens and it’s really delicious.
* Bake nettles into a quiche or tart for an alternative to spinach.
* Wilt into scrambled eggs or tofu for an iron-rich breakfast – perfect with grilled tomatoes.
* Cook into a risotto or wilt into a tomato-based pasta sauce.
* Boil the nettles in vegetable stock and serve as a side dish with a little herb butter.
* Boil a handful of leaves in a few cups of water for a few minutes, then strain to make a tea-like tonic.
- 100g (2 cups, packed) raw young nettle leaves (use the top 4-6 leaves)
- 200g (3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- zest and juice of ½ lemon
- 250g (2 cups) plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 150g (2/3 cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 300g (2 ½ cups) powdered icing sugar
- 2 tbsp milk
- 2 tsp dried culinary lavender, ground in a mortar and pestle
- Preheat oven to 170C/325F and line a muffin tin with liners.
- Using rubber gloves, carefully wash the stinging nettle leaves and remove any stems. Place in a pan of boiling water and boil for 2-3 minutes. The sting will be removed with the boiling. Refresh by running under cold water, drain and puree well with a hand held stick blender. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the nettles, vanilla, zest and lemon juice.
- Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and stir to gently combine.
- Spoon the mixture into the liners to fill ¾ full, then bake for 15 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes in the tins and move to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.
- For the icing, cream the butter in a large bowl until fluffy. Add in the icing sugar and ground lavender and beat. Beat in the milk, if necessary to make it a frosting consistency.
Looking for another crazy nettle cake recipe? Try out my Stinging Nettle and Lemon Cake with Blackberries
Nettle image courtesy of Shutterstock