Would you believe that until last week I had never sat down and enjoyed a meal in my own restaurant and experienced what our customers experience. I wish I had done it earlier. It is always nice to have a meal cooked for you but sitting in the restaurant I had this immense feeling of pride at what we have all accomplished here in Blacklion.


We picked up awards for Best Restaurant in Ulster and also Best Customer Service in Ulster at the recent Irish Restaurant Awards that are brought to us by the Restaurant Association of Ireland. We are really proud of both those awards and it is fantastic to get that type of recognition.

Anyone who knows me will have heard me say that everything we do here is because of the fantastic team that we have and it is that team that makes all the awards possible but more importantly it is the entire team that make our guest experience what it is. Everyone is a vital part of what we do. Sitting in the restaurant and enjoying the food, the atmosphere and the service I could see why our customers enjoy coming to visit us and I don’t say that to sound big headed in any way.

And speaking of our customers I want to thank each and every one for your continued loyalty. It is not something that we ever take for granted and we work very hard to try and keep improving. Our staff are constantly training and learning and in the kitchen we try to ensure we are always inventing and reinventing dishes all the time.

Today’s recipe that I am sharing is one that customers really enjoy in the restaurant. And I hope you enjoy it to.



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

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

snipped fresh chives, to garnish

fresh micro herbs, to garnish

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 reserved smoked duck, chives and micro herbs.


This soup can be made up to 2–3 days in advance and kept covered in the fridge. It can also be frozen for up to 1 month but may need to be blitzed with a hand blender when reheating, as it may split.


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