Wild garlic, nettle and barley soup

[Serves 4–6] This uplifting soup demands a meander in your local parklands or wooded area, where you’ll find the slender garlic spears offering up its persistent scent to the breeze. The season can run from late spring to early summer, and wild garlic tends to be rampant wherever it grows. The white flower is easily recognised, though some aficionados prefer the milder flavour pre-blossom. Always forage sustainably.

INGREDIENTS 3–4 tablespoons olive oil 1 medium onion, diced 250g wild garlic, washed 250g young nettles, washed (be sure to wear gloves!) 250g pearl barley, washed 2 large floury potatoes, peeled and diced 1 litre vegetable stock Salt and pepper

INSTRUCTIONS Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based pot over a medium heat. Add the onion, reduce the heat and gently sweat to draw out the moisture and sweetness.

Once the onion has turned opaque, you can add all the other ingredients and simmer until barley is soft and potatoes are cooked, about 15–20 minutes.

Allow to cool a little before blending with a stick blender and season well to taste. If you prefer, you could leave this as a chunky soup, or just blitz it a little to thicken the broth but to hold some of the texture.

If you picked the wild garlic while in blossom, their pretty white flower would make an attractive garnish scattered over the top.

HOME-TRUTHS… Always use gloves when picking nettles, and choose the young tender tips. It’s worth picking slightly away from pathways or roadsides, and avoiding the lower leaves which may have caught the scented spray of a passing dog or cat!