Festive and delicious… sinfully, sumptuous soup!
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping on your nose…” these famous, festive lyrics were written because, for so many of us, the smell of roasting chestnuts IS winter and Christmas. So it seems only right that we should feature a December recipe which is packed with chestnutty yumminess! This soup is tasty enough to serve as a starter for a fancy dinner but is also satisfying enough to be a light lunch or supper on its own. It is also actually simple and quick to make but it still looks suitably impressive should you want to dazzle anyone with your culinary skills! You’ll need a blender/hand blender to whizz this up with — the result will be velvety, smooth and sinfully sumptuous.
This recipe, by Alicia, is wholesome, nourishing and comforting. Impressively, she was able to pick the chestnuts herself from her local forest. If you’re able to do the same, then you will be eating the freshest produce which is always the most nutritious and delicious. However, if you don’t have the opportunity or the inclination to gather them fresh from Mama Nature, then you can just as easily use the vacuum packed variety or a good quality, tinned, chestnut puree. If you go for the tinned option, then make sure you are buying the unsweetened version — otherwise, trust us, your soup is going to be disgusting!
We feel that this soup is yummy enough to be included in the “Gourmet” portion of our site but it does have some decent “Skinny” credentials too. Chestnuts actually contain less fat than many other nuts and are also relatively well fibre loaded which means they keep you feeling satisfied for longer. Our recipe doesn’t use potatoes or any other thickener which helps to keep the carb levels moderate too. How good is that? Something delicious, nutritious and yummy enough that you won’t feel like you have deprived yourself of anything at all… and your skinny jeans will still love you.
What you need:
- around 450g of peeled Chestnuts or 1 tin of unsweetened chestnut puree.
- 1 Carrot, finely diced
- 1 small Leek, washed thoroughly and chopped finely
- 1 medium Onions, finely chopped
- 1 clove of Garlic, crushed
- 2 small bay leaves
- 1 stick of Cinnamon
- 1 tablespoon of Honey (leave this out if you want a vegan option)
- the juice of half a Lemon (or to taste)
- around 1 litre of liquid (this can be just water or chicken/vegetable stock or a combination of all 3!)
- 1 glass of good, dry white wine or 2 glasses of good white wine (if you want one to drink while you cook!) If you don’t want to use wine at all, then just increase the volume of water/stock being used.
- a tablespoon of olive oil
- optional extras – cayenne pepper for heat, Salt for seasoning (you may not need this if you are using chicken or vegetable stock in the soup), yoghurt to decorate (leave out if making a vegan/dairy-free version)
How to make it:
If you’re using fresh chestnuts, you will need to peel them (obviously!) and there are a couple of ways that you can do this. Firstly, you can use a knife to make a little cut or “X” shape in the skin on the flattest side of the nuts and then simmer them in a pan of hot water for around 15 minutes. The other method, which adds a real depth of flavour to the soup, is to roast the nuts in a moderate oven for 15 minutes.
Whichever method you use, after the 15 minutes is up, the nuts will be soft and ready to peel. Make sure that you take off the shell, which comes off pretty easily, and also the inner membrane too, which is trickier to remove. The membrane will come off much more easily if you peel the nuts while they are still warm. To do this, take them out of the pan/oven in small batches so that they don’t cool down too fast. Be careful though as they are going to be HOT… don’t burn your fingers, please! If you’re using the tinned or vac-packed variety, then you should be pretty safe!
Keep your peeled chestnuts/puree to one side. In a large pan, add the tablespoon of olive oil and heat it for a few seconds and then add your chopped carrots, onions, leeks and your crushed clove of garlic. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon stick and gently fry for a couple of minutes. (TOP TIP — Alicia ties the bay leaves and cinnamon stick together with some cooking string so that she can fish them out easily later on! Smart, huh?)
Once the veggies have softened a little, add your chestnuts/puree to the pan and warm them through. If you want to add a little honey to the pan now, go ahead — you may not need the whole tablespoon — so add less first as you can always add more later. Vegans – feel free to use any other vegan-approved sweetener you would like to. Continue to cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes and the chestnuts will become a little sticky (if you are using fresh ones) — if you’re using puree, then just stir the honey in.
At this stage, add your glass of wine to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes on a medium to high heat so that the alcohol cooks off. If you have drunk your glass of wine accidentally before you have reached this step — naughty naughty! — then add around 2/3 of your stock/water to the pan and simmer on a medium heat for around 20 minutes. If you’re using fresh chestnuts, just use a knife to gently poke one or two of them to check they are tender and cooked through. If they still feel a little firm, then cook for 5 minutes longer and try again.
Once the chestnuts are soft, take the pan off the heat, remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick and then use your blender to blitz the mixture into a smooth soup taking care not to splash yourself with hot liquid if you are using a handheld blender. If the soup seems too thick, add some of your remaining stock/hot water to it until it reaches a consistency that you like. Then, give it a taste and then consider whether you want to add some/all of the lemon juice and also whether you want to add some salt to it. If you have used stock, then you may not need any salt as stocks do tend to be quite salty (because of this, we advise using lower sodium versions or homemade stock with no added salt at all.) Feel free to add some pepper and/or cayenne for an extra kick.
Finally, serve in your prettiest soup bowl and get stuck in and enjoy! If you want to be all fancy, your can add a swirl of yoghurt to the top to pretty it up even more! We will leave the arty presentation to you!
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