It's been a bit of a crazy old week, this one. Our semester started, so that meant lecturing and sorting out admin, we have a HUGE admin deadline coming up at work to revalidate our whole undergraduate programme, and a whole load of snow dumped itself on our doorstep at the start of the week. It does make me wonder how so many parts of the world cope so perfectly well with proper snow for half the year, when you see what a bit does to us. Norse God - how do you manage? Fortunately I was able to hunker down in the house with a heater and a hot water bottle (shaped like Bagpuss since you ask - much more snuggly) for most of the week, but on Thursday I had to brave the outside to get in for teaching. I left extra early, assuming that I wouldn't be able to cycle most of the way to the station, and the whole neighbourhood was beautifully white but eerily quiet. The snow had deadened all the sound, and since almost everyone else seemed to have decided to follow the hunkering down option I was practically the only person out, making shamefully mundane tracks in the virgin white snow. I did get on my bike once I was down on the main road, but even there it was very slushy and snowy, and all the cars were going at snail pace. Anyway, I got in ok which is more than some of my students who were still coming back to university from home managed.
All this is to say a) do you miss us and our weather, Kiwi Family?! and b) it is most definitely the weather for warming wintry soups. I've been wanting to try some savoury dishes using chestnuts for a while, and this recipe fortuitously appeared in a magazine recently (I think it was Sainsbury's magazine though I wouldn't swear to it). I don't generally like nuts, and chestnuts come up tediously regularly every Christmas as suggested vegetarian options so I've been a bit put off. But I'm trying to vary my intake of 'good fats' and liked the softer texture that chestnuts have compared with other nuts. They are also the lowest fat of the nuts, just for info. This soup teamed them up with parsnip, which we had just got in our veg box, and apples, which I would eat at every meal if I could. It took a bit of work to track down the chestnuts at the supermarket (they appear for Christmas and then gracefully retire for 11 months) but I was lucky and found some leftover seasonal boxes which were reduced.
This was a very good wintry, hearty, sweetish soup. I really liked the combination of sweet apple, creamy chestnut and distinctly flavoursome parsnip, and The Scientist was a fan too. We ate it with some apple and cider bread which I will post about soon as well. This is a soup I will definitely return to - but possibly not until chestnuts reappear in the supermarkets next December!!
Roast chestnuts, apple and parsnip soup (from Sainsbury's magazine, I think)
Makes 8 small cups or 4 regular servings
25g butter (I used less)
2 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 x 200g pack roasted chestnuts, roughly chopped (I followed the directions on the box to pierce the vacuum pack and microwave briefly first)
800ml hot stock
Melt the butter in a large pan and add the parsnips, celery and seasoning [I was a bit puzzled about this direction as there didn't seem to be any extra seasonings in the ingredients list. I tasted and seasoned as I went along though I have to admit that I can't remember exactly what herbs I added). Stir over a high heat for 4-6 minutes until the vegetables are lightly golden. Tip in the apples and cook, stirring occasionally, for another 4-5 minutes. Add the chestnuts, pour in the stock and simmer. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until the parsnips are tender, then remove from the heat. Using a blender, liquidise the soup until smooth. Return to the pan and adjust the seasoning. Thin with more water if you prefer it thinner, and serve with an optional swirl of cream.