Monday, November 26, 2007

26.11.07: Brussle Sprout & Chestnut

Brussels sprouts and chestnuts are a classic seasonal combination and one which I'd been keen to try, but for the fact that fresh chestnuts are a right pain to peel (not to mention that they cost a fiver per kilo). Sprouts aren't exactly fun to peel, either. So what possessed me to attempt this soup this morning, when I started late anyway, I dunno.

I looked in Somerfield for a can of unsweetened chestnut puree (some hope!) and found 200g packets of roasted, peeled and ready-to-use whole chestnuts, vacuum packed by Merchant Gourmet, right next to the raw chestnuts. So I ended up spending the best part of a tenner on two packets of prepared chestnuts and a kilo of the fresh 'n' wild kind.

I started making the soup by dicing a mirepoix of carrots, onions and celery and starting to cook the dice in a generous scoop of margarine, adding the contents of the two 200g packets of chestnuts, a grated nutmeg (a couple of teaspoons full) and a generous sprinkling of ground cinnamon. I mixed these ingredients thoroughly as they continued to cook over low heat while I peeled the sprouts.

I spread out the kilo of fresh chestnuts onto a tray and roasted them in a hot oven. Apparently, I should have cut a slit in the skins first and then they wouldn't have started popping in the oven and would have been easier to peel. But I only found out about that after Marie had laboriously peeled them.

Marie came into the soup kitchen early, when the soup was barely begun, and stayed for a cup of tea. When she saw how long it was taking me to work my way through 3kg of Brussels sprouts, she volunteered to help, thankfully. Between us, we peeled the sprouts and I chopped then in half and added them to the soup pot with two litres of Marigold bouillon.

When all the sprouts were added to the pot and covered with bouillon, I turned up the gas and simmered the soup for fifteen minutes and let it cool for five before blending with Gaynor the stick mixer, adding another couple of litres of bouillon , plus a litre of boiling water with 100g of creamed coconut dissolved in it (that's five litres of liquid in total). Et voila!

Marie had peeled half the roasted chestnuts by the time I finished the soup so I blended them in, too. One of our arty regulars came in before the soup was finished, so I asked her to chalk up the blackboard while she waited, which is how come this soup came to be so spelled. Jan is allergic toBrussle sprouts, or something, and wrote in the log bok, 'unfortunately not a soup I can eat, but it looks and smells fantastic'.

It was good: very nutty, with a bit of crunch in its texture. I served it with a swirl of freshly-made EasiYo Greek-style yoghurt. Ange wrote, 'what a gorgeous soup!! Seasonal and fresh. Very addictive - but I've kept to one bowl. PS: I.O.U. a double donation next time'. Sure, Ange. That's what they all say.

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