The perfect soup to start your Christmas Dinner

The first of three Christmas starter blogs, I hope you enjoy this recipe for a Chestnut and Wild Mushroom Soup. It is something different to serve and I think the chestnuts give it a real Christmas feel and I am sure the family will give it the thumbs up!

MUSHROOM SOUP... A different type of soup to try on Christmas day

MUSHROOM SOUP… A different type of soup to try on Christmas day

Stock up on cans of vacuum-packed chestnuts, which are normally readily available in good delis, shops and large supermarkets at Christmas time. If you want to keep the soup vegetarian, garnish it with some sautéed mushrooms instead of the smoked duck.

Ingredients

Serves 8–10

50g (2oz) dried mixed wild mushrooms

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

450g (1lb) peeled chestnuts, chopped (canned or vacuum packed)

100g (4oz) smoked duck, thinly sliced

1 large onion, finely chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken stock or vegetable stock

200ml (7fl oz) cream

mushroom purée, to garnish

snipped fresh chives, to garnish

fresh micro herbs, to garnish

Method

Place the dried wild mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and pour in 400ml (14fl oz) of boiling water to cover. Set aside for 20 minutes, until they have plumped up. Drain the mushrooms and gently squeeze them dry, reserving the soaking liquid.

Heat a large pan over a medium heat and add the rapeseed oil. Add the chestnuts, half of the smoked duck, the onion and drained wild mushrooms and sweat gently for 10 minutes, until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Season to taste.

Add the thyme to the pan with the reserved soaking liquid and stock, stirring to combine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Stir in the cream and allow to heat through for 1 minute, then whizz with a hand blender until as smooth as possible. Season to taste, then blitz again with a hand blender until light and foamy, tilting the pan to get the maximum effect.

To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Garnish each one with the mushroom purée, reserved smoked duck, chives and micro herbs.

Vegetable Stock

Makes about 1.2 litres (2 pints)

2 leeks, trimmed and finely chopped

2 onions, peeled and finely chopped

2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1cm (1/2in) dice

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

1 fennel bulb, cut into 1cm (1/2in) dice

1 garlic bulb, sliced in half crossways

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) dry white wine

1 fresh thyme sprig

1 bay leaf

1 star anise

1 tsp pink peppercorns

1 tsp coriander seeds

pinch of salt

Place all the ingredients in a large pan and cover with 1.75 litres (3 pints) cold water. Cover with a lid and bring to a simmer, then remove the lid and cook for another 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Either set aside to marinate for 2 days in a cool place, or if you’re short of time, strain through a sieve. Taste – if you find the flavour isn’t full enough, return to the pan and reduce until you are happy with it. Leave to cool completely and transfer to a plastic jug with a lid and store in the fridge until needed. Use as required.

COOK AHEAD

This will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze in 600ml (1 pint) cartons and defrost when you need it.

Mushroom Purée

Makes 350g (12oz)

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

25g (1oz) butter

1 onion, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

550g (1lb 4oz) Portobello mushrooms, diced

2 tbsp Madeira

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

100ml (3 1/2fl oz) cream

Heat the oil and 1 teaspoon of the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes, until softened. Tip in the mushrooms, Madeira and thyme and simmer for 15–20 minutes, until the mushrooms are completely softened and almost mushy.

Pour the cream into the pan and stir to combine, then allow to reduce down for a couple of minutes. Place the mixture into a Thermomix or blender with the rest of the butter and blitz for 5–7 minutes. Use as required.

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