Chestnut and Mushroom Soup with garlic croutons

Chestnuts on sale at Selcuk market

This is a lovely warming winter soup which has a rich deep flavour and also uses up the glut of chestnuts we have at the moment. I’ve had half a kilo of chestnuts sitting on the windowsill mocking me for the last fortnight and I needed to use them up but had been putting it off because I hate peeling chestnuts – see below for tips on how to peel chestnuts – but I was glad I finally got around to peeling them this morning because this soup was lovely.

Ingredients (serves four)

250g mushrooms – mixed is best either oyster or chestnut or cultivated
250g chestnuts
2 cloves garlic chopped
1 onion chopped
Sprig of fresh rosemary chopped
Salt and pepper
1.2 litres stock – chicken or vegetable
Splash of cream (optional)
50g butter
Splash of olive oil

For the croutons

2 slices of bread
1 clove garlic
Little chopped rosemary
Olive oil

Melt the butter with a splash of olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté the chopped onions and garlic gently until soft and translucent. Add sliced mushrooms and chopped chestnuts reserving some as a garnish with the croutons. Fry gently for a few minutes, add the chopped rosemary, salt and pepper and then pour in around a litre of stock, bring to the boil and simmer covered for 30 minutes by which time the soup will be a chestnut brown (ha ha).

Fry onion, garlic, chopped mushrooms and chestnuts

I leave the soup for an hour or so for the flavour to intensify but you don’t have to. Blend in a liquidiser with a splash of cream if you have it. Then pour back into the saucepan, add salt and pepper to taste and warm. If may be a bit thick so you can add some more stock at this stage to thin it down a little.

Liquidise with a splash of cream

For the croutons – rub two slices of bread with a cut clove of garlic, then cut into squares and fry quickly in olive oil until golden. Add the reserved mushrooms and chestnuts to the frying pan and allow to crisp. Pour soup into warm bowls, scatter with the croutons, mushroom and chestnut garnish and serve with crusty bread.

Serve in warm bowls with garnish and crusty bread

Preparing Chestnuts

The worst bit over! Peeled chestnuts

I hate peeling chestnuts, I really, really hate them, and because I hate them I try and find the easiest way of peeling them and this is about the easiest and quickest I have found. Cut a deep cross in the flat side of the chestnut, if the knife goes completely through the chestnut it doesn’t matter. Drop them into cold water as you do them. Once you have cut a cross in all of them bring them to the boil in the water and boil for five minutes or until the edges of the cut cross curl up. Don’t drain them, leave them in the water. The colder they get the harder they are to peel. Take the chestnuts from the hot water as you need them, squeeze them and then peel off the shell pulling from the cut, if you have a small pair of spring loaded square tipped pliers it saves your finger tips and nails a lot! It takes me about 20 minutes to peel around half a kilo this way which is still about fifteen minutes too long but there you go, we don’t have vacuum packed chestnuts in Turkey.