If you ever make anything at all with nettles, make sure you are wearing a really good, stout pair of gloves before you even consider going out to start picking. Any nettle recipe, be it risotto, pasta, soup or salad, calls ideally for those lovely, fresh, tender, soft green sprigs which you will find in the spring. Should you opt to make this dish with older nettles, they must be stripped down to the stalk to remove their strings or the results may be a little chewy! Basically, you should treat nettles like most other green, leafy vegetables.
1 large mild onion, finely chopped
1 large celery stick, finely chopped
75g (3oz) unsalted butter
500g (1lb 2oz) freshly picked nettles, thoroughly washed and dried, then finely chopped
400g (14oz) Arborio rice
1 glass medium dry white or rosé wine
1.5 litres (2 ½ pints) chicken or vegetable stock, kept simmering
75g (3oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus extra for serving
sea salt and freshly milled black pepper
Fry the onion and celery in half the butter until soft. Add the nettles and stir, then cook for a few minutes until completely soft and tender, adding a little water if necessary. Add the rice and mix thoroughly until the grains are all shiny, well coated and hot. Pour in the wine and stir to evaporate. Add a little hot stock and stir until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, then add more. Continue in this way for about 20 minutes until the rice is fluffy and tender but still firm in the centre of the grain. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter and the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and leave to rest for about 4 minutes, then transfer to a warmed platter and serve immediately. Offer extra Parmesan separately at the table.