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Nettle Kail

This was made with a year-old cockerel, and in some areas families gathered for Nettle Kail suppers on Shrove Tuesday to bless the spring work. In this recipe spinach can be substituted for nettles, but when available they make an interesting soup. Kail is a word used loosely for greens of any kind, or for the soup made with them, and does not therefore always refer to the vegetable that is called kale.The remaining broth can be served as it is the next day or it can be pureed in the liquidiser or passed through a sieve. Some finely chopped chicken meat can be added for garnish.

2 and a half -3 Ib boiling fowl (1 - 1 half kg)
1 Ib young nettles or spinach (500 g)
4 pts water (2 and half L)
1 oz barley meal or fine oatmeal (25 g)
Salt and pepper

For the stuffing -
6 oz medium oatmeal (175 g)
2 oz fat (suet, dripping or butter) (50 g)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp wild garlic leaves or mint leaves, chopped

To make up the stuffing, melt the fat in a pan and fry the onions till cooked but not brown. Add the oatmeal and cook for a few minutes. Season and add garlic or mint. Stuff the body cavity of the bird and skewer or tie up opening. Put the bird into a large pot and add water, salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1- 1 and a half hours.

To prepare the nettles or spinach, wash very well, dry and chop up finely. When the chicken is almost cooked, put in the barley flour or oatmeal and nettles or spinach. Simmer for about 10 minutes.

To serve the chicken, remove from the pot and place on a heated ashet. Remove about half the nettles with a slotted spoon and place in another dish. Add a knob of butter and a little of the cooking liquor. Serve with the chicken.

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