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Biking & Baking in Las Alpujarras

We've been in Spain for over 4 years now - plus 4 motorbikes - and a horse - join us for the ride!

Chestnut soup
29 November 2012 @ 22:02

This is tree and shrub planting week, according to some locals, so we have been down on the land getting in various shrubs and 3 more olive trees. I've also treated myself to a white camellia for the terrace and an interesting South African plant called a Carissa or Natal Plum. The landscape is sublime just now, with green terraces, yellow poplars, sienna red maples, that crisp blue sky and then the snowy peaks...and astonishing sunsets too. Temperatures are plummeting at night but still very pleasant by day...digging in the sunshine in a Tshirt is pretty good at the end of November!

Last time I promised the recipe for chestnut soup, so here it is. It's a great autumn/winter warmer and all our friends loved it. This is plenty enough for 10 people, but you can serve fewer people and have enough for seconds or tomorrow's lunch!

800g chestnuts, peeled and par-boiled*; 125g unsalted butter (NOT oil); 2 garlic cloves, sliced thin; 3 medium shallots (or small onions) sliced thin; 1 leek sliced thin; 2 celery stalks sliced thin; 2 bay leaves; 2 thyme sprigs for the soup and a handful for garnishing; 2.25 cups white wine; 1.25 cups fino sherry; no more than 4 pints of home-made chicken stock (or from cubes); 2 tsp salt; 0.75 tsp black pepper.

Gently cook garlic, shallots, leek and celery in the butter until very soft (about 15 mins), add thyme sprigs, bay leaves and chestnuts. Cook for another 10 mins. Add wine and continue cooking until most of it has been absorbed. Add half the sherry and cook for a further 10 mins. Add the stock, bring to the boil and then simmer slowly for about 1.5 hours. Remove the thyme and bay, let the soup cool slightly and then puree to a fine blend. Taste and add more sherry if desired (or just glug it down yourself). Reheat gently and ladle into hot bowls, garnish with thyme and/or a few croutons and serve with a small jug of cream for those whose cholestrol count is too low!!!


* For easy peeling followed by par-boiling, select large, 'striped' chestnuts if available, or whatever type you can find; cut a couple of vertical slits and take off the outer skins  with a sharp knife (watch your fingers...); keep a small pan of boiling water on the go and boil a handful at a time for 3-5 mins; remove from the water, (drop in another handful of course), allow to cool enough to hold them, and whip off the inner skins with the same sharp knife.  If the inner skins are difficult, give them another boil.  If you discover anything resembling a grub (or an outer skin with a grub hole in it), discard or cut out all affected parts.

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