CHESTNUT AND MUSHROOM SOUP
Seasonal Spanish Food
by Jose Pizarro
The European chestnut tree is also known as the Spanish chestnut, perhaps due to the large forests to be found in Galicia and, to a lesser extent, in Andalucia. You might suppose from its name that a chestnut is a nut. Well, its shape might suggest as much, but true nuts have a fat content of 45 to 55 percent and are low in carbohydrates, whereas the chestnut contains more like 1 percent fat and about 80 percent carbohydrate. It is about as starchy as wheat, so it's no surprise it's sometimes known as "the grain that grows on a tree."
You can use chestnuts in a very similar way to potatoes; for example, they are excellent mashed and served with a game casserole. In the following recipe, they add a subtle, smoky sweetness to the mushroom soup.
This is a really autumnal recipe. Try to use best-quality smoked bacon or pancetta if you can.
· 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
· 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
· 14 oz mixed mushrooms, chopped
· 7 oz cooked and peeled chestnuts, coarsely crumbled
· 1 quart chicken stock, warmed
· salt and freshly ground black pepper
· 4 slices smoked bacon or pancetta, chopped
· 1/2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
· 2 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a saucepan over medium heat and cook the garlic until soft. Stir in the mushrooms and cook until browned. Stir in the chestnuts and cook for another 3 minutes. Pour in the stock, season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium to high heat and cook the bacon pieces until brown and crisp. Set aside to drain on paper towels.
Once the mushrooms are cooked, use a hand blender to puree the soup; add the vinegar, give it a stir, and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Divide the soup between four warmed bowls. Scatter the thyme leaves and bacon pieces over the top and eat immediately.