It is officially cold. And there are two or three things I do when the mercury drops so far: first, I put a blanket on the bed, second I think about turning on the heating but resist it as long as possible and third I start making soup. For me, soup is to winter what salad is to summer: a fast and (mostly) healthy food that is endlessly interesting because there are so many possible variations. Who, for example, has ever heard of putting pears into one? I hadn’t until this morning but it works. The sweetness of the fruit is barely evident except in the way it softens the dryness of the chestnuts. I had several packets of chestnuts in the cupboard (they were on 3 for 2 last winter…luckily they keep) and this is a brilliant way to use them up. It tastes velvety and autumnal, like an internal comfort blanket.
Chestnut and pear soup (adapted from Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan)
For 2-3 portions you will need:
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
unsalted butter, 1 tablespoon
white onion, half
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
chicken or vegetable stock, 750ml
celery, 3 stalks
ripe pear, 1 (plus another half for garnish if you like)
fresh thyme, 1 or 2 sprigs
vacuum-packed chestnuts, 200g
single cream, to garnish
1. Peel the onion half and cut into thin slices.
2. Top and tail the leek, peel off the hard outer leaves and the dark green tough parts and discard. Cut in half lengthways, rinse thoroughly under running cold water, then slice into thin pieces.
3. Rinse the celery stalks and cut into small pieces.
4. Melt the butter in a large lidded saucepan and, once melted, add the onion, leek and celery. Stir the vegetables in the butter until thoroughly coated, season then cover and leave over a low heat for about ten minutes until the onion is soft.
5. Meanwhile, if necessary, make up the stock and peel, core and cube the pear.
6. When the onion is soft, add the pear, thyme, stock and chestnuts to the vegetables and stir to combine.
7. Bring the soup to the boil then, once bubbling, turn the heat down, cover the saucepan with its lid, leaving a little space for the steam to escape and leave to simmer for about 30 minutes until the chestnuts are easily squished with a spoon.
8. Blend the soup until smooth, season to taste then serve with a swirl of cream and a few cubes of pear.