This picture is a bit misleading because I cheated and used vac-packed ready-cooked chestnuts, but if you’d like to start from scratch and roast your own, have at it.
To do this, heat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Cut a cross with a sharp knife into the skin of each chestnut, place in a single layer in a roasting tin and bake until the chestnuts split and the insides are soft, around 30 minutes.
Peel off the outer and inner skins as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. If you let them get cold they’re a nightmare. Trust me, been there, done that. About 450g of shell-on chestnuts should give you 300g peeled weight. Roughly.
The soup, either way you make it, sums up autumn for me. Woodsy, earthy and sweet by turns. Eat it as a starter or a light main course, preferably with some crusty bread.
Chestnut and Mushroom Soup
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
1 stick of celery, trimmed and chopped
1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely diced
250g chestnut mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped, one kept whole for garnish
300g vac-packed chestnuts, ready peeled and cooked
1 heaped tspn fresh thyme leaves, picked from the stems
2 tbsp olive oil
Up to 1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock, warmed
A handful of finely chopped parsley (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onions and celery, sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and fry gently until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two more. Now throw in the sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have wilted, about five minutes.
Roughly chop the chestnuts and add to the pan with the thyme, stir well, then pour in 900ml of the warmed stock. Bring it to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the onions and celery are soft and the flavours have blended.
Remove from the heat and when it has cooled somewhat, pour into a liquidiser (you may have to do this in batches) or use a hand blender and whizz until you have the texture you prefer – I like it smooth, you may prefer to have some chunks of mushroom and chestnut. Put the soup back into the cleaned pan and check the seasoning, adding the reserved stock if it’s too thick.
Stir in the parsley, if using, and re-heat gently. Thinly slice the reserved raw mushroom and float a piece on top of each bowl, with a scattering of parsley.