Nettle soup recipe

As with most things in nature that which is desirable has some fearsome protective mechanism keeping hoarders at bay. I am sure most people have felt the annoying pain that is assosiated with nettles, usually as a child in summer unwittingly running around the wilds with bare legs.
I remember a story my father told me while he was working in a field as a a boy. After being caught short and having to relieve himself in the field he reached for a large leaf to wipe his backside but unknowingly picked up a nettle also. Wiping your backside with a nettle and my fathers description of the pain seeded a deep fear of this unremarkably looking plant into my heart which still plays on my mind.
So when it was apparent that I would have to confront this phobia in order to make nettle soup I done what a man needed to do......and got his daughter and nephews to pick the nettles for him!

Unfortunately the protective bags for picking were not as protective as I thought!

Nettle soup recipe:

What you need:

  • Nettle tops (enough to fill a pint glass or two)
  • Butter (1 oz)
  • Oatmeal (1 oz.)
  • water or stock (vegetable 1 pint)
  • salt and pepper

What you do:

  1. Wash nettles in several changes of cold water
  2. Chop finely of mince (as i did in masticating careful with pronouncing that particular word!)
  3. Melt butter in pot and fry oatmeal until golden brown
  4. Stir in water or stock and bring to boil while stirring
  5. Add nettles, salt and pepper and bring to boil again
  6. Lower heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes

I was not overly impressed by this considering the ordeal required to get the ingredients. Perhaps milk would have been a better substitute for stock/water. I added a little cream to top of nettle soup which made it more pleasant (incidentally making an image of a 6 legged goat, something with horns to represent the danger)

I can understand that in times gone by in Ireland, food was scarce and nettles abundant so nettle soup was a bound to be popular but it is not my cup of tea (I like nettle tea though....). It is also extremely nutritious and would give you a real health boost if you made a regular thing of it. I was told that there is a similar dish in Portugal but am unaware if it is from nettles or another weed.

Many doc leaves were harmed in the making of this recipe

Irish Cadburys chocolate - Easter special

With Easter upon us I thought something topical was in order. The other day I was minding my own business pouring out a pint of lager, when I saw an Irish lady out of the corner of my eye throw something purple at me. Well she did not throw it but I used a bit of drama to capture your attention. The lady passed me a bar of Cadburys chocolate exclaiming "try that". You see she had previously told me that Cadburys chocolate from Ireland is nicer than the Cadburys chocolate in England. Although I doubt she went all the way to Ireland to pick up a bar of chocolate for me, I was extremely grateful for this kind action.

Often you hear people talk about how their own country produces somethings which are better than others. In fact I think this defence of ones own country/culture is intrinsically built in and so naturally I did not feel a need to argue back that this lady is obviously biased to Ireland and that Cadburys make their chocolate the same the world over.

However seeing as though I am a trained scientist (oh yes:), I thought I would finally qualify my student loan and put some of that training to use. I decided and contrast this Irish bar against a local version.

Without any further ado let's get into it.

Physical size

Firstly I noticed the weight difference. The English bar is substantially bigger. The English bar proudly states 49g on the packaging whereas there is no trace of a weight on the Irish packet. I think the manufacterers are ashamed! After some ratio mathematical magic I worked out the Irish bar to be a measly 17.86g! (I could have weighed it obviously but I had already eaten it). I do not know the price in cent of this bar but the English version is about 40-50p and I can not imagine the Irish shops selling them for much less than 50 cent. On one hand, it shows awful value for money but on the other rather chubby hand it shows an excess of need. Will I be satisfied with a bar of chocolate whatever the weight? Do I need those extra grams circulating around my body looking for a bed?

I would say that in the current economic climate value for money is more important than love handles since you can always walk that bit further to remedy the situation.

Irish Cadburys 0

English Cadburys 1

Aesthetics - Packaging

The English version wins chubby hands down despite a nice effort by the Irish to include a second gold leaf foil in a Willy Wonka homage. The English version has substance, an amazing sheen and feel to it that makes me not want to throw it away but wear it on my feet. There is an amazing colour change to a darker purple as some direct reflection changes to diffuse reflection. This is a wrapper worthy to be in Captain Picards fridge on the Enterprise with it's stylized technological beauty. The Irish version would feel at home in a ration pack during the Second world war I'm afraid.

Irish Cadburys 0
English Cadburys 2

Ergonomics or ease of use

English version: The separate chunks of chocolate notched into perfect portions allowing the user complete control with minimal effort.

Irish version: Initial attempt to break off some resulted in shards of chocolate all over my mothers clean carpet. More ended up on that than in me but the vigorous cleaning required afterwards did burn off quite a few calories. In fact I would compare it to celery in that eating it resulted in me using rather than accumulating calories.

But with people suing each other over the littlest thing, Cadburys England can be rest assured that no lawsuits will be coming their way as no accident at all can happen when using their user friendly bars.

Irish Cadburys 0

English Cadburys 3


The most important consideration and initially I thought it would be obvious they would be the same, coming from the same manufacturer but I was wrong. I tried both in the fashion of wine tasting (I had to clean the carpet again though after spitting on it, damn), I was perplexed by what I was sensing. Was it because the English chunkiness meant a textural change and had influenced taste? Was the wafer thin Irish bar too small for any change in taste at all?

I distinctly recognised the English bar as having a characteristic Cadburys taste and was far stronger than the Irish version, overpowering in fact. The Irish bar was smoother, creamier but not in your chubby face like the English bar. I was astounded and immediately shared my taste experiments with others. Principally, without putting a heap of statistical graphs and analysis down, the English bar was sweeter. Frantically I scanned the nutritional information on the packaging (the English one was like an essay), and there incredibly I found it. Nearly a gram more sugar (per 100g). Not really a lot when the Irish bar is lighter than an email but obviously enough.

The only other differences were that The Irish bar had nearly a gram more protein (per hundred) most likely to make up for the loss in sugar and keep the calorie levels identical.

Irish Cadburys 25
English Cadburys 3

Obviously taste has more weight in the comparison so in the home straight the Irish have won it (as they only too often do!)

Carrageen milk and cinnamon dessert recipe

For more information about Carrageen moss click here

A very nutritious and easy to digest dish and extremely easy to prepare.

What you need:

Carrageen moss (14g)

Milk (1 pint)

Cinnamon (very generous sprinkling or to taste)

Pepper (pinch)

Honey (1 tbsp or to taste)

What you do:

  • Prepare the carrageen moss by soaking in cold water for half an hour and then cleaning thoroughly under running water.

  • Place in pot with milk, honey, cinnamon and pepper

  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes

I prefer to leave the Carrageen in the mixture and eat it to obtain the full nutritional benefit but alternatively you can strain the liquid. If you intend to strain then more milk should be used as the seaweed is a potent thickener. Try 2 pints of milk. Vary the amount of milk according to desired viscosity.

Furthermore you can replace cinnamon with e.g. nutmeg, ginger , lemon rind (when straining) or use a combination.

I, along with one of my aunties who popped round at right time, found this delicious and filling, not too rich or sweet and with the added piece of mind that it is hugely beneficial to my health.

Carrageen drink recipe for recovering health

Carrageen moss is a seaweed that grows around the coasts of Ireland and is a popular ingredient in many recipes both traditional and contemporary.

There are numerous beneficial qualities to this seaweed. (Click here to read about them), and one of the most traditional ways to use this is as a remedy for 'flu and chest infections/coughs.

What you need:

Carrageen moss (approx. 10g)
Water (approx. 700ml)
Whole lemon (1)
Cloves (approx 3)
Honey (to taste)

What you do:

  • Prepare seaweed by soaking for half an hour in water and then thoroughly washing under running water removing any roots
  • Put the carrageen moss into a pot with water and boil.

  • Add juice of 1 lemon together with the rind (basically whole thing but separated) and cloves

  • Cover and simmer for half an hour

  • Strain and add honey to taste

Coincidentally I had an upper respiratory tract infection and chesty cough when making this so made the trying of it all the more authentic. Unfortunately my taste and smell senses would have been compromised some what.
Initially I was struck by the smell when it was boiling, it brought me to the seaside with the unique algal smell and I was a bit anxious after what happened with the crubeens. My mother immediately recognised it even though the last time she had it was as a very small child.

The drink was very palatable. I never really liked hot lemon and honey but this I did like. Initially there is the seaweed taste, which is not horrible followed by the lemony tones neither of which are too overpowering. I happily drank 2 full mugs of the stuff but would probably use more Carrageen moss or less water next time for a stronger taste (so it seems more like medicine!). I can't say I was cured since it takes a sustained barrage of doses morning noon and night to be effective and 50g costs 3.30 (euros) so I would not really be tempted to use it nowadays whenever I get a sniffle. Still if I am ever stuck near the Irish coast in summer with no hope of getting to the chemist to treat my cough, I'm laughing!

Carrageen moss - more than just an algae

Algae is something I am familiar with. On a daily basis I drink the microscopic type of algae, Spirulina, and so I looked forward to trying it's macroscopic cousin in the form of seaweed or Carrageen moss (Chondrus Crispus). Also known as Irish moss, it is a dark purplish seaweed and is abundantly found growing on the rocks in the lower part of the Irish seashore, Carraig being Gaelic for rock.
The seaweed is dried out and bleached in the sun after being collected at low tide during the summer. After purchase the seaweed is usually soaked for about 15 mins to half an hour to rehydrate and then washed thoroughly under cold running water to remove dirt and much of the salt.

Carrageen moss is high in vitamins and minerals such as iodine, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and others but also has a range of other effects such as being an antiseptic, digestive aid, blood thinner and it encourages phlegm to be coughed up while soothing dry mucous membranes. The latter explaining why it is traditionally used in Ireland for com batting chesty coughs or chest infections.

As well as it's traditional medicinal usage, it also has a traditional culinary usage in that it is a very good thickening agent for soups, stews and in making jellies.


Carrageen jelly

Cruibins (crubeens) or pigs' trotters

I have always heard stories from people of my parents' generation, in particular Irish, talking about how wonderful and tasty the part of the pig that separates it from the muck on the ground is. Perhaps as adults we find delight in terrifying those younger with, almost cannibalistic, tales of gnawing on the pink feet not dissimilar to an ogre would. What I do not understand is why none of these people are eating them nowadays. Maybe these people did find them delicious....until they first tried proper bacon and after comparing, decided to abandon all but the story telling factor.
Although I have read that trotters have transcended the working class arena of years ago into the very poshest of restaurants. Trotters are making a comeback so look out for them on those menus! They would most likely be prepared differently to how I done them, without the bones.
Crubeens were traditionally a pub snack on Saturday evenings or on stalls by pubs who did not sell them. The grease and salt being used to good effect and driving up the sales of stout (a tactic well used by publicans worldwide in one way or another).

What you need:
Trotters, I used 2 (from your butcher, might be more difficult to find than bacon rashers)

Lots of salt and water

What you do:
  • Wash trotters thoroughly (they have been been marinated in muck for years!). Can be quite difficult if you do not like looking and washing your dinner with it's hair and nails still on.
  • Cover with salted water and soak overnight or at least 12 hours.
  • Rinse and cover with fresh cold water and bring to the boil.
  • Remove scum that forms at water surface.
  • Lower heat and simmer for 3 hours or until tender.
  • Drain and serve with mustard, soda bread and a pint of stout.

This is a very simple way but you can also add vegetables (onion, carrot) and herbs (thyme, cloves, parsley, bay leaves) to the boiling water to add more flavour.

Furthermore the boiled trotters can be rolled in beaten egg, then dry breadcrumbs and fried in bacon fat or just roasted in the oven to make the outsides nice and crispy.

I have to admit at this stage that I did not get to try my own crubeens. I learnt an invaluable lesson about shelf life of trotters. I got them from the butchers and kept them in the fridge for 3 days before cooking which I thought would not be a problem. There was a slight smell when I was photographing them but nothing terrible or unexpected. I was told there can be a distinct smell associated with them when they are cooking and that did not worry me.
However soon after they had come to the boil, the house stank. I mean there was a stench like nothing I have ever imagined. I thought it would go away but after a couple of hours even with every window open , it just got worse and worse. I chucked a few onions in at some point hoping to blunt the smell but no joy (possibly why aromatic herbs are used widely, to curb the boiling bacon smell).
I had to stop boiling them as family members started to develop trembling in their legs.
In the end, the kitchen was quarantined and out of action and i was sent out to KFC.
I do not know if they were off to start with or my 3 day delay was too long but my one message to you is: use them on the day of purchase (or separation if your a farmer), or buy them cured so they have less chance of being, or going off.
I really want to taste these as the meat is supposed to be extremely tender and I am determined to try everything once so when the day comes that I pluck up the courage to attempt them again this site will be updated.