Chestnut Soup in a bowl with text

Chestnut Soup

Dinner Soups & Stews

Chestnut Soup just feels undeniably classic for the holidays, almost Dickensian. It’s rich, complex, and delightfully warming. Oh, and surprisingly easy to make. Make it a new tradition this year.

Chestnut Soup in a bowl with text

As I write, all of the pieces of my new kitchen are being carried up the stairs while I thankfully sit here on the sofa in my pajamas with my laptop. As you read, my kitchen is somewhere along the process of being completely destroyed and put back together. I’ve found this whole process to be much more emotional than I expected.

While I knew it would be stressful to have our house in a state of complete disarray for a week, I didn’t expect the pangs of grief I felt watching all of my things being removed from the kitchen. I hate nearly everything about that kitchen aesthetically, but energetically, it’s still my sanctuary. The place where I create. The place where I nourish all parts of my being and show my love to my family and friends. It hurt my heart to not be able to use it.

two bowls of Chestnut Soup with bacon from above

In the meantime…

So while I’m banished from my kitchen this week as it gets a much needed makeover, all I can do is daydream about Christmas dinner. We’ve had a slight easing of restrictions with three households allowed to mix for a few days either side of Christmas. This means we’ll be having my sister-in-law and her husband, plus their two pugs, over for dinner on Christmas Eve.

It’s been so long since I’ve been able to prepare a proper dinner for guests, I’m almost overwhelmed with ideas. Do we go stricly traditional? Do I go completely off the radar and make like, enchiladas or something? Flip the script and have breakfast for dinner? I can’t decide, but I’m probably going to fill several pages of my notebook joyously pondering.

Chestnut Soup in a bowl with bacon and creme fraiche

What makes Chestnut Soup so awesome?

If you’re going the traditional, full-scale Christmas dinner route this year, I’d highly recommend you make some Chestnut Soup to start things off. I had never had it before the first time I made this recipe. I was so delightfully surprised. This soup is made with red lentils, the usual aromatic vegetables, and vacuum-packed, ready-to-eat chestnuts. The splash of sherry at the end adds a level of depth and complexity that you shouldn’t do without.

As with most soups, it’s the garnishes that really take it over the top. I’ve gone for creme fraiche and crispy smoked bacon lardons here to add a bit of texture, umami, and a hit of acid. If you need this soup to be vegetarian, you could skip the bacon. If you need it to be vegan, just swap out the creme fraiche for plain vegan yogurt. Definitely don’t skip the swirl of something creamy, though. You need it to cut the richness just a bit.

two bowls of Chestnut Soup

How to make Chestnut Soup

This recipe is suprisingly simple. It comes from Nigella Christmas. I’ve halved the recipe, and it still generously serves six people. If you’re serving it as a starter in smaller portions, you could easily stretch it to 10.

Start by roughly chopping all your aromatic vegetables, onion, leek, carrot, celery, then adding them to a food processor to blitz to bits. You could just finely chop them, but I’m lazy and it’s Christmas. Cook the veggies in garlic oil in your favorite soup pot to soften, then add your lentils. Add your veggie stock, and let it bubble away gently for about 40 minutes until the lentils are soft.

Once everything’s tender, add your chestnuts, and smooth everything out with an immersion blender or transfer it to a standard blender. If you’ve never made this before, you’ll be like, how are these giant chestnuts gonna to make a smooth soup? It’s magic. It totally works. If you want to make this ahead, you could stop here and reheat it later.

When you’re ready to serve

When you’re ready to eat, add in a generous amount of sherry, and check for seasonings. You can fry your bacon well ahead or do it while the soup is cooking. Just have it ready to top each bowl with plenty of crispy bacon, and a gorgeous swirl of creme fraiche or sour cream.

Chestnut Soup with bacon and creme fraiche

Christmas is coming, kids. The rest of the world may be in chaos, but we can still find simple solace in good food. A bowl of Chestnut Soup in the winter can make anything feel more awesome.

Looking for more awesome soup recipes? Try this Ham & Potato Soup.

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Chestnut Soup

Chestnut Soup with bacon and creme fraiche

Chestnut Soup just feels undeniably classic for the holidays, almost Dickensian. It’s rich, complex, and delightfully warming. Oh, and surprisingly easy to make.

  • Author: Renee Rendall
  • Prep Time: 20
  • Cook Time: 60
  • Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x
  • Category: Soup
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: British

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 leek
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 tablespoons garlic-infused olive oil
  • 11/4 cups red lentils
  • 6 cups vegetable stock 
  • 8 ounces ready-to-eat chestnust
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • salt and pepper
  • 5 slices smoked streaky bacon or 1/2 cup smoked bacon lardons
  • about 1/4 cup creme fraiche 

Instructions

  1. Roughly chop your onion, leek, carrot, and celery and add them to your food processor. Process until your veggies are chopped to small pieces.
  2. Heat your garlic oil over medium-low heat in a large pot, then add the veggie bits. Cook your veggies, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes or until softened. 
  3. Add the lentils and stir them together with the vegetables.
  4. Add your vegetable stock to the pot, give it a stir, and turn up the heat to bring it to a boil. Then turn the heat back down to a simmer, and let it gently bubble away for about 40 minutes, or until the lentils are softened. 
  5. While that’s bubbling away, this would be a good time to cook your bacon in a skillet until crisp. If you’re using bacon slices, you can chop them before or after they go into the pan, but you’ll want to end up with small bits of bacon for topping your soup. Once the bacon is cooked to desired crispness, drain it on a paper towel-lined plate and set aside until you’re ready to serve.
  6. Once everything is tender, add your chestnuts to the pot. Then use an immersion blender to blend the soup until smooth. Alternatively, you could ladle the soup into a regular blender and blend it that way. Just be sure to leave the lid cracked on your blender to let steam escape, otherwise, you could end up with chestnut soup all over your kitchen walls.
  7. Once everything is smooth (and back in the pot if you’ve used a standard blender) stir in the sherry. If you think the soup is a bit thick, you can stir in a little bit of water to thin it out. Check for seasonings and add salt and pepper as needed.
  8. Ladle your soup into bowls, and top each one with a swirl of creme fraiche and a generous scattering of crispy bacon pieces.

Notes

If you want to make this ahead, stop and refrigerate it after you’ve blended the soup. Then add the sherry as you’re reheating. You will likely need to add water to make it a bit thinner if you’re reheating the soup.

Keywords: Soup, Chestnut

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