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Nettles are best harvested in the spring and early summer; you can find them almost everywhere but take care to avoid any that you think may have been sprayed with weedkiller or are within ease reach of a dog’s back leg.

You only want to pick the most tender top leaves, usually the top 2 to 4 on any plant, they taste the best and leave the rest of the plant to thrive.

You’ll need gloves to avoid the sting, but they’ll lose their defences the moment they are cooked.

This dish needs little more than a simple nettle pesto and our Properly Free Range Chicken Breasts.

 

Ingredients

Method

  • Put a pan of salted water on to boil. Thoroughly wash the nettle tops. When the water is up to the boil, add the nettles, return to a simmer, and cook for about 30 seconds until wilted. Drain well and cool them immediately in a bowl of cold water – this stops the cooking and locks the bright green colour into the leaves.

  • Now drain the nettles again and use your hands to squeeze out as much water as you can; the stings will have been neutralised by the cooking, so you won’t need gloves. Roughly chop the leaves and place them in a food processor with the pine nuts, sheep’s cheese and garlic. Turn the processor on and slowly pour in enough olive oil to give you a pesto-like consistency. Taste and tweak the seasoning with salt to your liking. You can make this in advance if you like, it will keep well in the fridge for 3-4 days.

  • Put a pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Slice the chicken breast into thin strips and season them with salt and pepper. When the water is boiling drop the pasta in. Slide a frying pan onto a high heat, add 1 tbsp of oil and fry the chicken for a few minutes until nicely coloured and cooked through. Pour in the wine and let it bubble away and reduce by half. Remove the frying pan from the heat and add the pesto along with a couple of tablespoons of water from the pasta pan – the starchy water helps to thin it into a sauce. Drain the pasta when ready and then toss it in the frying pan. Mix well, divide between 2 shallow bowls and finish with some extra cheese grated over the top. Serve immediately.

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