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Chestnut soup (v)


This is a lovely warming winter soup with a sophisticated edge. Vacuum packed chestnuts are not as good as ones you've cooked and peeled yourself, but are a perfectly acceptable substitute and do save a fair bit of time.


Serves 4 as a starter


250g chestnuts, cooked and peeled

100g mushrooms

1 stick of celery

1 small carrot

1 leek

a small sprig of rosemary, finely chopped

750ml chicken or vegetable stock

a splash of red wine


4 slices serrano ham, or similar


Dice the celery, carrot, mushrooms and leek. You'll be blending the soup later on, so no need to get the pieces too small or regular.


Melt a knob of butter in a large pan and add the vegetables and the rosemary. Saute gently until softened, and just starting to colour.


Add the chestnuts, cook for another few minutes and then add a splash of red wine. When the alcohol has burnt off, add the stock to the pan and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.


Blend until perfectly smooth. Check the consistency; you may want to add a little water to thin it down a little. Taste for seasoning, I do find this soup needs quite a lot of salt.


To serve, chop the ham into thin strips and fry in a little olive oil until crispy. (For a vegetarian version, fry some breadcrumbs and a few mushroom slices as a garnish instead.)


Ladle the soup into bowls and divide the crispy ham strips between each bowl.

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