"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 gm chestnuts (about 16; see note)
- 50 gm smoking woodchips, such as hickory or maple (see note) (about 2/3 cup)
- 2 celery stalks from the tender pale heart, finely chopped
- 3 golden shallots, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 100 gm unsalted butter
- 2 litres chicken stock (8 cups)
- 1 turnip, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 150 gm pouring cream
- 1Preheat 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.
- 2Set 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.
- 3Meanwhile, 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.
- 4To 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.
Choose lighter-coloured chestnuts for easier peeling. Smoking woodchips are available from specialist barbecue shops and online from bbqaroma.com
Drink Suggestion: 2007 Crosser Blanc de Blancs, Adelaide Hills, SA or NV Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne. Drink suggestion by Russ Mills & Amanda Yallop