Lentil & Chestnut Soup
While the chestnuts weren't roasted over an open fire for this recipe, they add wonderful texture and the slightest hint of sweetness to this festive Lentil & Chestnut Soup. No cream or pureeing here, this vegan soup is a tasty combination of humble root vegetables, brown lentils, and luxurious chestnuts.
I took the easy road and used Minerve Chestnuts in Water ($6 at Whole Foods) rather than boiling and peeling fresh chestnuts (a laborious job, I'm told). They are simply chopped and sauted in olive oil with oregano and thyme, then excited with tangy marinara sauce.
The recipe is adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen. I didn't fancy the fennel Madison used to flavor her soup, so I skipped it. I also added potato, a lot more garlic, skipped the celery in favor of more carrots (hate cooked celery), added marinara in place of tomato paste, and added some soy sauce to develop the final flavor.
I was a little anxious about the sweetness of the chestnuts, not being big on sweet with savory, but they are deliciously mild and work brilliantly with the lentils.
Lentil & Chestnut Soup (adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen):
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, peeled and diced small
1 large potato, peeled and diced small
3-4 carrots, diced small
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup lentils (I used basic brown)
5-6 cups of water
1 bay leaf
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano
salt & pepper
1 tbsp soy sauce
10 oz can chestnuts in water, drained and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
pinch of thyme
pinch of oregano
1/3 cup marinara sauce
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan and fry the onions for 3 minutes. Add the potato, carrots, and 2 of the garlic cloves. Stir well, cover, and cook 5-6 minutes, stirring to avoid sticking. Add the water, lentils, bay leaf, thyme and oregano. Add salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for 20-40 minutes (depending on the type of lentils) until the lentils are tender.
While the soup is simmering, heat the olive oil in a skillet and add the chopped chestnuts. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the thyme and oregano. Cook 2 more minutes, then add the marinara. Stir well and cook for 2 minutes.
Add the chestnut mixture to the soup, along with the soy sauce and two remaining minced garlic cloves. Cook together for 3-4 minutes. Add the chopped parsley, cook 1 more minute and serve.