"This soup is an ideal way to enjoy winter's chestnuts," says
Peter Gilmore. "Serve it in cups while guests are gathered before
lunch." Skip the smoking for a clearer chestnut flavour.
350 gmchestnuts (about 16; see note)50 gm (about 2/3 cup) smoking woodchips, such as hickory or maple (see note)2celery stalks from the tender pale heart, finely chopped3golden shallots, finely chopped2garlic cloves, finely chopped100 gm unsalted butter2 litres (8 cups) chicken stock1 turnip, peeled and coarsely chopped150 gm pouring cream
Preheat oven to 180C. Cut a cross into the top of each chestnut 2-3 mm deep with a small sharp knife only scoring the shell to the flesh. This is important so they don’t explode in the oven. Place chestnuts on a wire rack and roast in the oven until cuts open up (15-20 minutes). Remove from oven and place in a heatproof bowl covered with foil and set chestnuts aside to cool and steam slightly (10-15 minutes). Peel the chestnuts outer and inner layers to expose the soft nut. Discard shells and turn oven off to cool.
Set chestnuts up on a wire rack on the top shelf of a cold oven or a barbecue, such as a kettle barbecue with closed vents and a lid (see note). Place wood chips into a cast iron frying pan and light the wood chips using a large blow torch, then burn for a couple of minutes before blowing out the flames. Place the smoking wood chips in the oven on a lower shelf below the chestnuts and close the door and smoke until smoky-flavoured (20-25 minutes; check after 10 minutes, relight and blow out flames if smoke has disappeared. Set aside until required.
Meanwhile, stir celery, shallots and garlic with half the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat until translucent (3-4 minutes). Add stock and turnip and reserved chestnuts, increase heat to high and boil until chicken stock has reduced by half and vegetables are soft (30-40 minutes). Blend with remaining ingredients in an upright blender, or hand held blender, until smooth, season to taste and strain through a fine sieve if desired for extra smoothness. Soup can be made 2 days ahead and reheated before serving.
To serve, bring the soup to a simmer over medium-high heat. Whisk cream to soft peaks and reserve one-quarter to serve, then whisk remaining through the soup. Serve in small cups with a dollop of cream and freshly ground black pepper to taste.