Crusted rack of lamb with nettle-swirled hummus served with grilled radicchio and pearl-barley salad.

Foraging is hugely gratifying because it’s free, Nature providing entirely without human input and, certainly in the case of nettles, in such abundance. Next time you’re contemplating mowing down the nettles, grab a few for your supper first, but be sure to wear gloves and don’t eat the flowering plants.

Crusted rack of lamb with nettle-swirled hummus served with grilled radicchio and pearl-barley salad (serves 4)

Ingredients
2 racks of well-trimmed lamb
1tbspn wholegrain mustard
75g fresh breadcrumbs
A handful each of parsley, thyme and rosemary, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon (reserve the juice for the hummus below)
25g Parmesan
A generous splash of olive oil

200g nettles, leaves removed from stems

400g canned chickpeas
1 tablespoon tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, crushed
80ml olive oil

Seasoning

2 heads radicchio
Olive oil
200g cooked pearl barley
Fresh parsley to serve

Method
Preheat your oven to 200 ̊C/400 ̊F/gas mark 6. Spread the mustard over the racks of lamb and season well. Mix together the bread- crumbs, herbs, zest, Parmesan and olive oil in a medium-sized bowl. Spoon it onto the lamb and press down gently to make it stay. Cook in your oven for about 30 minutes or until done to your liking.

Meanwhile, blanch the nettle leaves, drain well and then blitz in a processor. Set aside in a bowl. Clean the processor and add the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and seasoning. Blitz to a paste.

Cut the radicchio into quarters. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with seasoning and then lay on the baking sheet alongside the lamb for the last eight minutes.

To serve, spoon a circle of hummus onto each plate, add a dollop of the nettles and then swirl with a fork. Scatter the pearl barley over it and then arrange the radicchio and lamb chops on top. Add a squeeze of lemon to the whole plate, scatter with freshly chopped parsley and serve.

More ways with nettles

MAR 16 KITCHEN GARDEN.inddNettle-pesto pastry sunflower
Take 250g nettle leaves and drop them into a large pan of boiling water. Stir for a couple of minutes and then drain. Squeeze in a tea towel to remove the moisture. In a food processor, blitz the nettles, 3 garlic cloves, 50g lightly toasted pine nuts, the juice of half a lemon, 100ml olive oil, 100g Parmesan and seasoning to a paste.

Lay out a pre-rolled sheet of puff pastry on a lined baking tray and spread with the pesto. Lay another sheet on top and then, using a large plate as a template, cut around it to make a large circle. Place a glass in the centre of the pastry circle and then cut lines in towards, and up to, the glass. Lift each section and twist it before putting it back down again. Repeat all the way around. Brush with beaten egg and bake in a hot oven for about 30 minutes or until browned.

Serve as a tear- and-share or alongside grilled fish and salad.

Nettle, pea and courgette soup
Blanch 200g nettle leaves in boiling water for a few minutes and then drain in a colander. Blitz in a food processor until a paste. In a saucepan, place a few chopped spring onions, a sliced courgette, 100g garden peas and a large peeled and chopped potato. Add enough vegetable stock to just cover them and simmer until tender.

Add the nettle paste and then use a stick blender to process to a purée. Add a generous splash of single cream. Stir well and then scatter with a handful of freshly chopped herbs before serving.

Nettle tea
If eating nettles doesn’t appeal, then you could make nettle tea, which has a long list of health benefits. Simply take nettle leaves and drop them into a teapot. Pour boiling water over them and infuse for at least five minutes. You could also add a squeeze of lemon and a few pomegranate seeds.

** Read more recipes from Country Life