My garden has a Chestnut tree only a small one, a teenager really but it fruits and each year the size and quantity of the nut increases. Like many Brits I quite like the idea of the Chestnut but don’t really know what to do with it.
Up till now my experience of eating Chestnuts has been confined to roast Chestnut which lets face it are tedious long before you get to the bottom of the bag and here in France the Gateau Paris-Brest and some sublime Chestnut ice cream served with Chestnut liqueur from the Restaurant Agnes Sorrel in Genille.
My experience of going beyond the roast chestnut in France confirmed that this was a culinary treasure that I needed to get to grips with. In addition I have a tree and provided I can beat the squirrels and wild boar plenty more are available in in the surrounding countryside. Once again gourmet and frugal.
But what to do? Well lets start gently so I turned to my Essence cookbook and decided to make Chestnut soup.
I like soups, particularly in winter and I had already made Essence’s Pea and Coconut soup which was absolutely lovely so I was very happy to test drive a different recipe.
Core to the soup was 500gms of shelled Chestnuts. Well that’s when I remembered why I hadn’t used Chestnuts before! 45 minutes and some knackered finger nails I finally had 500gms of Chestnuts, of course the problem was compounded by the fact that my juvenile tree was producing undersize nuts.
Once I had my Chestnut flesh I could get on with it, I’m not going to give the recipe, if you want that you will have to buy the book, but some key components are the white of leeks, onion and the sweating of ingredients in duck fat which helps to add depth and complexity to the flavour of the soup, as does the addition of smoked bacon, cognac, milk and some herbs. The whole mixture is further enriched by whisking in a good pat of butter. At this point the girls started muttering about diets.
But the finished article was luverrly, rich (of course), smooth, velvety and full of flavour. If you are worried about diet, cholesterol or some such have a small bowl, it was noticeable however that everyone had seconds including the girls! Must have got something right.
I think I will cook it again over the Christmas period but I plan to con some one else in to shelling the bloody Chestnuts. As a recipe I think it is near perfect for what it is, but next time I might reduce the butter and I think I will top the whole thing of with a roasted Hazelnut foam. I’ll mention how it went in a future post.