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Claire’s Nettle-Kissed Buns

Claire’s Nettle-Kissed Buns

Beyond the Books, Dragonfly in Amber

“The peasants of Gascony beat a faithless wife wi’ nettles,” he  said.  He lowered the spiky bunch of leaves and rushed the flower heads lightly across one breast.  I gasped from the sudden sting, and a faint red blotch appeared as though by magic on my skin.

“Will ye have me do so?” he asked.  “Shall I punish you that way?”

“If you…if you like.”  My lips were trembling so hard I could barely get out the words.  A few crumbs of earth from the nettles’ roots had fallen between my breasts; one rolled down the slope of my ribs, dislodged by my pounding heart, I imagined.  The welt on my breast burned like fire.  I closed my eyes, imagining in vivid detail exactly what being thrashed with a bunch of nettles would feel like.

Suddenly the viselike grip on my wrist relaxed.  I opened my eyes to find Jamie sitting cross-legged by me, the plants thrown aside and scattered on the ground.  He had a faint, rueful smile on his lips.

“I beat you once in justice, Sassenach, and ye threatened to disembowel me with my own dirk.  Now you’ll ask me to whip ye wi’ nettles?”  He shook his head slowly, wondering, and his hand reached as though by its own volition to cup my cheek.  “Is my pride worth so much to you , then?”

“Yes!  Yes, it bloody is!”  I sat up myself, and grasped him by the shoulders, taking both of us by surprise as I kissed him hard and awkwardly.

Diana Gabaldon, Dragonfly in Amber (Chapter 29)

And you’re still gonna tell me you don’t want to, at least, try stinging nettles?  I mean, look at that colour! A gorgeous green that would make Claire sigh with pleasure…as well as keep the scurvy at bay and the teeth in your jaw should you ever manage to fall through some stones of your own.

I love that picture up there so much that I’m bumping the regularly scheduled programming that is the photo you see down there…meant to represent the nettles on the cliffs near Fontainebleau where Jamie and Claire so intensely re-claim their passion after that painful Paris absence — you know, the absence and related activities that most of us don’t even like to talk about.

But the light in the pic below is a little flat.  And if there’s one word that doesn’t belong anywhere near Claire’s breasts, it’s flat. (Especially if you’re reading Exile!) 🙂

ready-to-roll copy

Nettle Season is upon us out here in the Pacific Northwest.  Some areas of California have been picking them for at least a month, and other regions of North America are just behind as the spring thaw continues.  There are dozens (if not hundreds) of varieties of nettles worldwide.  A quick google will show you what you have in your area and when the best time of year to pick them is.

Our stinging nettles pop up after rain, when it’s still a little cool, so they’re the ideal fodder for the early-season forager.  If you’re interested, find a foraging club in your area.  You’ll get out for a walk, learn a ton, and most likely go home with some free food to boot.  I have a small crop that I have been tending in the forest behind our house for the past 4 years.  I clip them regularly, as soon as they appear, and I have a good supply through the end of the season which, around here, is mid-April.  At that point, the plants are too old and bitter.

But the reality is that you probably don’t have to find your own.  You’ll find nettles at many farmer’s markets as they come into season.  I’ve seen them for sale by farmers and foragers alike.

Here’s a few other ways you can cook with nettles.

nettle rolls

As for Claire’ Buns, I racked by brain (and the thesaurus) for some way of turning nettle-brushed breasts into rolls (or vice-versa), but I just couldn’t pull it off.   So we’ll stick with her other end — Jamie appreciates that part of her anatomy just as much, after all.

I made a few of each size.  We used the large ones at breakfast, splitting them like bagels, toasting them lightly and topping them with a poached egg and bacon for an out-of-this-world breakfast sandwich.  3 days in a row.  Even when they’re a little stale, Claire’s Buns are amazing. (Say it aloud.  Isn’t it fun?)

I spread garlic butter on the mid-sized ones for a quick and tasty dinner with grilled chicken breast and salad.  And the mini ones would make really cute appetizer, either alone or filled.


(Click on the title below for a printable version of the recipe.)

Claire’s Nettle-Kissed Buns

Soft, earthy nettle rolls that are delicious at breakfast, lunch, dinner…even parties.  If you’ve never eaten Stinging Nettles, these may be just the thing to win you over to the green side.

Yield:  8 large, 16 medium or 24 small buns

For the dough:

  • All-Purpose Flour – 2 Cups
  • Rye Flour or Whole-Wheat Flour – 1/2 Cup
  • Instant Yeast – 1¼ tsp
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Butter, room temp, in small cubes – 2 Tble
  • Egg – 1 large
  • Milk, room temp – ⅔ Cup
  • Honey – 2 Tble

To brush the dough:

  • Butter, melted – 3 Tble

For the stinging-nettle filling:

  • Nettles, blanched and finely chopped – 1 Cup (see notes below)
  • Parmesan Cheese, shredded – ¼ Cup
  • Lemon Zest – from 1 lemon
  • Pine Nuts – ¼ Cup (see notes)

Read the whole recipe through once before you begin.

Combine the flours, yeast, salt and butter in a large bowl, cutting in the butter until it’s in small lumps.

Lightly whisk the egg into the milk and add it to the dry ingredients along with the honey.  Mix with your hand until it forms a rough ball, then remove it to a lightly-floured counter, and knead until the dough is soft, supple and tacky — but not sticky — 6-8 minutes  (You may need to add a little flour to get the right dough.  It depends on the humidity in the air.)

Pour 1 tsp oil into the clean/dry bowl, roll the dough to coat, cover with a plate or towel and set in a warm place to rise for 1½ to 2 hours, or until the dough is doubled in size.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and roll into a rectangle:

  • 12”x12” for 8 large buns (breakfast bun/sandwich size)
  • 8”x20” for 16 med. buns (dinner roll size)
  • 6”x24” for 24 small buns (party size)

Brush the dough with melted butter, then spread the nettles evenly on top.  Follow with the cheese, lemon zest and pine nuts, then press the toppings firmly into the dough with the palm of your hand.

Roll the dough up into a log, using a bench scraper or spatula to un-stick the dough when necessary.  Pinch the bottom seam to seal, then rock it, seam side down, to even everything out.

Flour a knife or bench scraper to cut the log into half, then quarters.  Continue to cut each piece in half until you have the desired number of buns (as above).  Gently transfer the slices to a parchment-lined or buttered pan, cover, and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1-1½ hours.

Set the rack in the middle position and preheat the oven to 350°F.

Dab the remaining melted butter onto the proofed rolls with a pastry brush, then bake until light golden, 10-18 minutes, depending on their size.

Cool on a rack.  Serve warm with butter, or slice for sandwiches.


  • For nettle foraging tips, watch this episode of Outlander Kitchen’s Outdoor PantryAlways wear gloves when handling nettles, until they are blanched and cooled.
  • You will need 5 or 6 big (gloved) handfuls of nettles for this recipe.  Use the top 2-3 sets of leaves only, and wash well in tepid water with a splash of vinegar to kill any little bugs.
  • Blanch the spinach in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes.  Use tongs or a slotted spoon to shock the nettles in a bowl filled with ice water.  This will cool them immediately and stay the bright green colour.
  • Remove from the water and wring the nettles in a clean dishtowel to squeeze out as much water as you can.  Chop finely and proceed with the recipe.
  • Frozen chopped spinach is a great substitute if you can’t get your (gloved) hands on nettles. It also has to be wrung out, once thawed, to remove excess water.
  • If pine nuts are unavailable, or prohibitively expensive, use slivered almonds instead.
  • I also tried cooking these in muffin tins, but we preferred the soft sides of the buns cooked together in a pan.


  1. merryweather
    March 19, 2012 at 8:33 am

    Wow, I feel very uneducated right now–There’s a whole field of nettles below my house and it never crossed my mind to use them like spinach. I have never heard of such a thing! Thank you for the great info–the idea of eating it makes me a bit nervous, but you make it look doable for sure 🙂

    • Theresa
      March 19, 2012 at 2:12 pm

      Have fun foraging in your back yard! Wear gloves and everything will be fine. 🙂

  2. takingonmagazines
    March 19, 2012 at 8:35 am

    You just ain’t right. 🙂 I need to find a foraging group around me but I’ve never heard of such an animal. I live in such a forested area I find it hard to believe that I don’t have nettles around me. I just don’t know how to find them and don’t want to poison myself by trying something I”m not sure of.

    If I do find them, I’m dog gone well making these Claire’s buns. Yeah, they look amazing.

    • Theresa
      March 19, 2012 at 2:11 pm

      Did you say forest? Then you’re surrounded by them…I’m sure somebody around there can help you identify the first couple. After that, you’ll never miss them!

  3. Priscilla M
    March 19, 2012 at 9:09 am

    They are just lovely! So perfect as a side dish or by itself. I have not seen nettles here in northern CA lately, but will definitely keep my eyes open for it. Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe 🙂

    • Theresa
      March 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      Many thanks for stopping by the kitchen, Priscilla…if you’re in northern CA, you can’t be far from nettles…Theresa

  4. Kiri W.
    March 19, 2012 at 9:23 am

    Lovely! 🙂 I adore nettle tea, so why not buns? Very interesting recipe.

    • Theresa
      March 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      Many thanks, Kiri!

  5. lionartcreation
    March 19, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Awesome! I had a feeling it was going to be something like this! LOL

    • Theresa
      March 19, 2012 at 2:08 pm

      Yes, you’ve known me long enough to know, Lee Ann. 🙂

  6. Ms. Aaron Brown
    March 19, 2012 at 11:58 am

    I will be on the look out for nettles!!

    • Theresa
      March 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      Can’t wait to see your creation, Aaron! Happy hunting…

  7. OutlanderFan
    March 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I love their versatility/suitable for breakfast lunch or dinner. My DH will like that. And thanks for including an alternate (spinach), though I must say I am verra curious to taste the nettles…

    • Theresa
      March 19, 2012 at 2:07 pm

      Jenn, we’ve been eating them at multiple meals for days, and we still haven’t tired of them! 🙂

  8. Shana Jensen
    March 19, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Your creativity amazes me! I was thinking when you posted the teaser that perhaps it would be a chicken breast with nettles – but this is Hilarious and looks scrumptious! Get this cookbook published!!

    • Theresa
      March 20, 2012 at 7:38 am

      I’m working on it, Shana! Thanks…

  9. ruaTimeTraveler2
    March 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    If I went through the stones I would want Theresa with me …she would be like….eat that and eat this…and I would be like OK…8)

    • Theresa
      March 22, 2012 at 9:49 am

      Only if you bring your guitar for singalongs around the fire, Vickie!

  10. Bri
    March 20, 2012 at 5:13 am

    At my first job as a field biologist, I had to wade through fields of thigh-high nettle in order to plot gps points. Needless to say, I have some unpleasant memories of that plant. (They sting through jean material, so make sure to wear thick gloves!) Your recipe, however, makes them look beautiful and delicious and I really want to try it! Perfect excuse for a hike with the hubs 🙂

    • Theresa
      March 22, 2012 at 9:49 am

      I think you’ll learn to love nettles, Bri…just gotta get back in the patch and get picking! Theresa

  11. deniz
    March 21, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Oh! Edible nettles! Another one to add to the list of recipes to try.
    I think you should publish a year’s worth of recipes…

    • Theresa
      March 22, 2012 at 9:48 am

      Thanks, Deniz! I’m working on the publishing thing…lol 😀

  12. Helen Leduc
    February 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    Nettle ale would be nice to wash these down with!!

    • Theresa
      February 27, 2013 at 7:39 am

      You`re so right, Helen! I`m going to do some foraging today!

  13. Rowen G.
    March 24, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    I have yet to find nettles in Denver, but I may try these with lambs-quarters in a few months; I’ll have plenty of those. We have a fresh 8″ of snow at the moment. (Thoroughly enjoying the blog, by the way – tapadh leibh!)

    • Theresa
      March 25, 2013 at 6:40 am

      Great idea, Rowen! I love foraging…and I adore wild food.

  14. Sharon M Anderson
    May 4, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    Would they’ve the same as devil’s club here in Western Washington?

    • Theresa
      May 5, 2014 at 6:57 am

      No devil’s club is a different plant. Nettles grow rampant across Washington…I’ve foraged for them down there too! If you are interested, try googling “nettle foraging western washington” (or your town’s name).

  15. Gail MacArthur
    May 28, 2015 at 11:32 am

    I still have some dried nettles left from last summer, will those work? It sure would be a delicious way to use them up.

    • Theresa
      May 28, 2015 at 2:50 pm

      No…but they would be great in a batch of homemade pasta!

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