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Sunday, 16 February 2014

Lentil and chestnut soup

For the past few months I have been followed around by really perfect pulse and chestnut soups. My stalkers tend to be inanimate – I was once stalked by a £10 note.

The first time I encountered a perfect pulse and chestnut soup was in Italy on Silvia Nacamulli’s fabulous cookery course (see here for more superlatives). It was a chickpea and chestnut soup, flavoured with garlic and rosemary, and it was astounding. I had never experienced so much flavour coming from a bit of lumpy broth before. I tried to recreate it when I got back home, but it just wasn’t the same.

The second time I encountered a perfect pulse and chestnut soup was at my work’s Christmas lunch at a fabulous gastro-pub called the Anglesea Arms in Hammersmith. It was a lentil and chestnut soup, thick and dark, butter-rich, and swirled with buttermilk and herb oil.

With these two perfect pulse and chestnut soups now inspiring me, I set out to try and create something on my own. So here is my version. It is thick and rich, and although it is long past Christmas, while it keeps raining like this I’m sure that hearty soups will stay welcome.


275g brown lentils – approx 1 and a half cups.
250g peeled chestnuts, not frozen. 
1-2 tbsp olive oil 
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 sprigs rosemary
1 carrot, peeled and diced
vegetable stock cube
salt and black pepper

To serve:
yogurt or crème fraîche in fancy swirls or drizzles
olive oil
toasted pine nuts, pumpkin seeds or almonds
sherry vinegar, a few drops

Makes about 8 servings


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, carrots and rosemary and fry on a medium until the onion is golden and the rosemary fragrant. Be patient, it might take a while. Add the garlic and fry for a few minutes more.

Add the lentils, chestnuts, and carrot bits, together with the vegetable stock dissolved in one litre of hot water. You will need more water, but I find it better to just top it up as needed, as opposed to putting too much in to begin with.

Bring the soup to the boil, put the lid on and simmer for about 40 minutes until the lentils are soft. Add more water as needed.

Remove the rosemary stalks, add some salt and pepper and blend with a hand blender until more or less smooth, with a  few lentil-y lumps. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed. 

Please note that this soup needs a bit of developing time – it tastes much better if made ahead of time and reheated than fresh.

Serve with all or some of the suggested serving flourishes.

Accompany, as I did (on all pulse and chestnut soup occasions), with a lot of wine.

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