Chestnut and Sage Soup
A velvety and nutty soup, perfect for using up leftover chestnuts from Christmas. You can either use pre-packaged cooked and peeled chestnuts (I like Merchant Gourmet) or fresh, whole chestnuts boiled, peeled and cooked till tender.
Famed for its use in stuffing and sausages, sage is a strongly-scented Mediterranean herb which is great for flavouring both meat and vegetables. With a long growing season, you can pick up small sage plants from gardening centres or plant from cuttings in unsheltered, well drained soil. It seems to be the only herb at the allotment which has survived the frost this winter and is great paired with sweet chestnuts in this recipe; you’ll find it widely available in most greengrocers if you don’t fancy growing your own.
(If you want to keep this recipe vegetarian, simply omit the pancetta).
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
300g cooked, peeled chestnuts
8-10 sage leaves, roughly chopped
100g white potato, peeled and boiled
1 litre vegetable stock
2 tbsp evoo
80ml crème fraîche
2 rashers pancetta
Heat the butter and 1 tbsp of olive oil in a wide based saucepan and sauté the shallots till translucent. Add the garlic and sage and cook for a further 5 minutes.
Pour in the vegetable stock along with the potato most of the chestnuts (keep several for garnish). Bring to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes and season to taste.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and using a food processor or a stick blender, blend till you achieve a smooth, velvety consistency.
Return the pan to the heat before adding the crème fraîche and stirring through. Check and adjust the seasoning.
Finely chop the pancetta and remaining chestnuts and fry in a little olive oil in a small frying pan. Once crispy, remove from the heat and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Serve in hot bowls topped with crispy chestnuts, pancetta and a drizzle of olive oil.