Souped up chestnuts

‘Avid’ readers of this blog will know I have been focusing on ways of using stuff up. Christmas usually provides an abundance of excess ingredients and so, this week, my challenging question is what do I do with the vacuum-packed chestnuts that never made it to a nut roast?

I love chestnuts, especially roast, running the gauntlet of injury to fingers when impatiently removing the jaggy shells to reveal the soft brain inside. Using vacuum-packed cuts down on injury, although their slightly greasy feel is not the nicest sensation.

(I also had a glut of leeks and onions; an idea for their use is covered later in the blog.)

Christmas is very good at providing a new supply of lovely cookery books and 2017 was no exception. Flicking through Soup by Vava Berry (Pavilion, and no relation to ‘that’ Berry I don’t think), I thought I’d give her Mushroom and chestnut soup a try.

The ingredients did state dried porcini mushrooms, a medley of different mushrooms, a Parmesan crust and homemade chicken stock. I had none of these to hand but ploughed on regardless with closed cup mushrooms and used what I had. So, this is my adapted version with further thoughts in ‘verdict’.

Mushroom and chestnut soup (adapted from Vava Berry)

a slug of cooking oil
1 onion, finely chopped
500g / 1lb 2oz closed cup mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
30g / 1oz oats
1x200g / 7oz pack whole chestnuts, ready to use
1 litre / 1  3/4 pints stock
Salt and pepper

Grated Parmesan to serve

Heat the oil, add the onion and cook for  a few minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for 5 minutes, and until the mushrooms are cooked and their juices have evaporated. Add the crushed garlic and oats and stir-fry for about a minute.

Add the chestnuts and stock, bring to the boil, removing any surface scum.  Simmer covered for about 20 minutes.

Process about a third to a half of the soup in a blender. Return the blended soup to the saucepan, stir and heat through until ready to serve.

Check for seasoning and serve with grated Parmesan.

Verdict: Really tasty soup, earthy and perfect for autumn and winter. A variety of mushrooms and the dried porcini mushrooms would definitely give added depths so I will try and be more prepared next time. I’m happy with vegetable stock, and would halve the chestnuts rather than use whole (although the blending of half the soup is a good idea, the remaining whole chestnuts still seemed a bit too big). And finally, I would maybe add a herb – sage, I think.

My Morrison’s Wonky Box has included leeks of late, so here’s a recipe for caramelised leeks and onions – I think this originally formed part of a filling for a flan (with crumbled feta and thyme in puff pastry), but it works well as a side dish accompaniment with a roast dinner or sausages.

Caramelised leeks and onions

slug of oil
1 large onion, sliced thinly
1 large leek, sliced thinly and washed
a good tablespoon balsamic vinegar
a good tablespoon soft, dark brown sugar
Salt and pepper

(this is about right as a side dish for 2 – 3 people, For a filling for a flan, I would increase everything to 3).

Heat oil in a large saucepan and cook onions gently until soft for about 5 minutes (I like them to also have slightly crisp, golden edges). Stir in leeks and cook for another few minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and sugar, stir then cover the saucepan and leave to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. If it starts to look dry, add a little more balsamic vinegar and sugar. There should still be a little liquid in the pan and the onions and leeks will get mushy. Taste and season.

Cook with the lid off for a further few minutes, just to ‘firm up’ before serving. You can cook these earlier in the day and just heat up gently when ready to serve.

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