Saturday, April 26, 2008

Chestnut Soup

Weekend Herb Blogging is hosted this week by Margot from the delightfully tasty Coffee and Vanilla and this week I have fresh chestnuts.

chestnuts

Chestnuts, while common in Europe were relatively unknown here until the mid-1990's and back then, what few chestnuts were available weren't particularly of a good quality. It's great to see that in the years that have passed the chestnut industry has improved and now we have access to excellent specimens such as these.

When looking for chestnuts it's important that you seek out those with a shiny skin and that are well weighted for their size.

Before you can use these chestnuts you have to peel them. There are various ways to do this...boil, roast, microwave, I choose to boil them. First off regardless of method used it is important to score the skin - if you don't the chestnuts can explode when heated.

Once scored place the chestnuts into a pan of boiling water and let them simmer for about 15 minutes - the simmering will help to soften the skin.

You need to work on one chestnut at a time as the skin is removable only when the nut is hot - if you don't have asbestos fingers then its a good idea to wear gloves. Once the outer skin is removed you will find that there is also a fibrous skin.

peeling chestnuts

This inner skin is called the pellicle - sometimes it will come off along with the outer skin but if it doesn't just place the chestnut back in the boiling water and let it soak for a few minutes for it to soften. It should them just peel off the nut. Depending on the nuts structure you may need to break the chestnut apart to completely remove the skin from the various segments.

peeled chestnuts

Once completely peeled they are now ready to be used - if all this seems to be "too much trouble" you can buy chestnuts that have been pre-peeled.

I've decided to use these to make a very simple Chestnut Soup - ingredients have been kept to a minimum as I want the Chestnut flavour and its texture to be the star.

chestnut soup

Chestnut soup

1 small leek, finely sliced
350 grams peeled chestnuts, diced
milk
freshly ground salt


Over a low heat, place a knob of butter and a little oil in a pot when the butter has melted add the leek. Cook slowly until the leek has softened but not coloured before adding the diced chestnuts.

Stir briefly and then add enough milk to cover the chestnuts by about 1cm. Simmer until the chestnuts have softened - the time taken will depend on the size of the diced chestnuts.

Using either a stick blender or food processor, blend the mixture until smooth - taste and then adjust the seasoning to suit.

Pour the mixture back into a clean pot - it will be fairly thick so you'll need to add enough milk or milk/water until you achieve your desired consistency.

Return to a low heat and simmer until warmed through.

chestnut soup

As it has quite a luxuriously creamy texture, I would recommend serving it as either a pre-dinner sip or in small bowls as a first course.

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15 comments:

  1. Beautiful chestnuts, Haalo! Your photography always wows me!

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  2. Great post, and chestnut soup sounds delicious. I've only had chestnuts once, when Simona from Briciole sent me some. Unfortunately I ate them all and never managed to blog about it!

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  3. Looks delicious! I was thinking, gee, chestnuts are more of an autumn treat ... then I remembered where you are.

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  4. As always, a beautiful post and photos! Chestnuts always remind me of when I was living in Rome and they would sell them warm on the streets. Delicious!

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  5. Thanks Katie!

    Thanks Kalyn - sounds like a good reason to try and find some more ;)

    Thanks Kitt - yes, autumn is certainly here.

    Thanks Ginny - the cones of roasted chestnuts certainly say italy to me.

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  6. Thank you for your beautiful entry Haalo :)
    Margot

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  7. chestnuts are my childhood sweet treat and every time i'm home, mum makes a pot of chestnut soup, cooked slow with chicken, chinese herbs and figs.

    this however is something i gotta try too. can never miss out on anything with chestnuts. gorgeous pictures, thanks for sharing. x

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  8. Haalo, this is a cup of divine soup, I must say. I adore chestnut anything. They are so rich and flavorsome. A bit sweet, ....yum

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  9. Yum, just had some roasted chestnuts in a cone this weekend gone. Nirvana BioDynamic Farm sell them in Autumn on the main street of Stirling, Adelaide, slowly turning them all day over open coals! Its a wonderful Autumn treat. Love your blog; inspirational.I use it weekly for dinner ideas.

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  10. I can positively confirm chestnuts without a slit will explode!!! It's no small explosion either, hurling off a heavy cast iron lid from a Dutch oven. Your soup looks really good.

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  11. Thanks Margot!

    Thanks Diva - I hope you enjoy it!

    Thanks Zuzana!

    Thank you Msmoo, that is very sweet of you!

    Thanks Neil - who needs firecrackers when you have chestnuts ;)

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  12. Jaw dropping stuff.... Your soup looks like a good frothy cup of coffee...I made your brandy snap recipe today, will post later this week with link to your site..

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  13. Thanks Nina - I look forward to seeing your brandy snaps!

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  14. i love those cups.
    my best friend lives in melbourne and she has them too. must be a melbourne thing?

    thanks for explaining how to cook with chestnuts. i see them for sale in the supermarket but never dared buy any since i didn't know what to do with them.

    i have a french recipe for chestnut soup with a dash of hazelnut oil that i want to trial. wish me luck!

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  15. Hi Anna - oh they are very cute cups and they come in two sizes but I've only ever seen them for sale once here and I can't remember which shop it was!
    I'll be keeping an eye out for that chestnut soup, I'm positive it will be delicious

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