Butternut and chestnut soup (Vg, V)
The Series of Autumnal recipes is back!
So, by now, you all know Ollie and I love mushrooms and pumpkins – and everything autumnal and comforting and warm and orange or brown – but there is another very autumnal ingredient we both love: chestnuts.
A Chestnut story
I introduced Ollie to chestnut last summer, when we were on holiday in the Cévennes (France), a region well known for its chestnut trees and high consumption of chestnuts – the chestnut trees there were even called “the bread trees” in the 19th century as chestnuts were the main ingredient of the local diet. Chestnuts are indeed full of amazing nutrients: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, magnesium, not to forget vitamins B1, B2 and PP. There are a lot of chestnut trees in the Cevennes, a beautiful natural heritage that locals are trying to preserve. Those majestic, beautiful trees give the region its magical atmosphere and look: green and dense forests, home and shelter to hundreds of animals, birds and insects. There are also A LOT of products made with chestnuts: jams, cakes, breads, soups, doughnuts, mousses…The chestnuts grow inside a shiny brown little shell, inside this big spiky green burr; double protection for a tender and flavoursome nut once cooked. They are harvested mid-October and is put to dry in specific drying rooms for about four weeks – that is why we see them appearing on shop stalls mid to end of November.
Chestnut is very versatile, and can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes. When I was growing up, my mum would make “Chataîgnes au lait” which is literally chestnut in milk, heated up. Although I do not drink animal milk anymore, I remember it was very rich, warming and delicious!
I believe chestnut is not as popular in England – that’s why Ollie and I have stacked up on chestnuts products when we were in the Cévennes! – although I can see more and more recipes with chestnuts, especially around Christmas as it is used as an ingredient for stuffing. But reducing chestnut to that would be a sacrilege!
We’re nuts about chestnuts
That is why last time we went to our favourite greengrocer (Ross, if you are reading, we love you) and saw chestnuts, we jumped on the occasion and bought about 200g. We didn’t have any idea of what to do with them until we came back home and saw this butternut lurking in the vegetable bowl…
We combined both and made this chestnut and butternut soup, a mix between flavours of the South of France and elsewhere in Asia thanks to the coconut milk. And it mixes well. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.
Butternut and chestnut soup
- 1 butternut
- 200 g chestnuts
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 small white onion
- 1 tbsp of thyme
- 1 tbsp of rosemary
- 1 vegetable stock cube
- 250 ml coconut milk
- 250 ml water
Put your oven on 200 degree Celsius
Peel and deseed the butternut and cut into bite size pieces. Put in a tray with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and pepper and the herbs.
Prepare the chestnuts: using a small, sharp knife, cut a cross into the skin of each nut on the rounded side. Put in a roasting tin and bake until the skins open and the insides are tender, about 30 minutes.
Then, wrap your warm chestnuts in a kitchen towel and simply crush the chestnuts’ skin with your hands pressing on the kitchen towel – you can also sit on it as I believe it is a (weird) French tradition that keeps your bum nice and warm and cracks the chestnuts open at the same time. Perfect cold weather tip here!
Once crushed (do not make a chestnut powder though), peel away the tough outer skin and the pithy white inner skin to get to the sweet kernel. Save for later.
Place your butternut into the oven and cook for about 10-15 min or until when the butternut is soft.
In the meantime, roughly chop the onion and garlic. In a large pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil, then add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic, then your cooked butternut and finally the chestnuts. Stir the mix and add the vegetable cube.
Boil a kettle, and add 250ml of boiled water to the mix. Stir again. Finally, pour 250ml of coconut milk (half a can) into the mix and again, stir well.
Mix your vegetables together with a hand blender, and your soup is ready ! Bon appétit.
P.S: you can keep a few chestnuts for the decoration.