Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Chestnut and Sage Soup

I'm experiencing kitchen paralysis. Not in terms of what to cook next - my recipe books are still bristling with post-its and the top shelf holds a sheaf of pages ripped out of magazines, pages which flutter onto the floor approximately once a day. No, this paralysis relates to the kitchen itself. You see, eight months after moving into this house, we're about to embark on our biggest DIY to date - and I just can't decide what I want. 


The kitchen we inherited is workable - sensible layout, nice butler's sink, decent oven and hood - but that's where the good things end. The orange pine doors hurt my eyes every single day. The upper cupboards are pitifully small, with random gaps in the skeletons which means that things fall through from one shelf to the next, landing on the countertop with a thud just when you're not expecting it. The backsplash (as you've no doubt spotted in photos) is a symphony in stained and dirty beige, the solid wood counter top has been used as a chopping board for years and has the scars to prove it. The paintwork is filthy, the lighting abysmal - honestly, I blame it for the terrible photos - and the dining area is lacklustre. We wanted to wait a year or so before tackling it, but honestly, the time has come. We just can't take it any more.

Given that the basic layout and the appliances are all fine, it doesn't make sense to rip it all out so we've decided to go for a cosmetic revamp. The grotty tiles and upper cupboards are going to bite the dust (hallelujah!); new, bigger top cupboards are going in, raised right to the ceiling to make the most of the space. Open shelving over the sink because I love it, new doors and drawer fronts for the lower cupboards to match the top. A crisp new backsplash will banish the beige forever, and with a lick of paint and some new lighting, presto changeo new kitchen! Or at least, better kitchen for not much of our hard earned dough. Geddit? Dough? In the kitchen? I crack me up.

But simple as it sounds, I just can't decide on the new doors - aka the most important bit of the kitchen. I've spent longer than I care to mention trawling Pinterest, collecting 50 inspiration images, but I just can't make up my mind. Fresh and white, a classy grey or deliciously dark? I just don't know. In the meantime, I'll get on with the type of kitchen decision I can handle. Last weekend, to accompany this maple walnut bread, that meant finding a suitably autumnal soup from Hugh F-W - smooth and velvety, rich and nutty, with a surprisingly moreish tang from the yoghurt and crunchy herbs on top. It was another delicious winner from Veg Every Day, perfect for the season - the soup equivalent of a forest floor of crisp brown leaves. Only without the insects or small burrowing rodents. Wait, you've lost all appetite for the soup now, haven't you? Well, at the very least, please make the decision about the kitchen cupboards for me? Choosing soup is about as far as I can go right now.

Chestnut and Sage Soup
Adapted from Hugh F-W's Veg Every Day
Serves 2 for lunch, or more for a starter

- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 smallish clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 3 leaves of sage, roughly chopped, plus a few more to decorate
- 200g of cooked, peeled chestnuts (the vac packed ones, basically)
- half a litre of veg stock (homemade if you're Hugh, from a cube if you're us)
- 50ml of creme fraiche or natural yoghurt

Melt a small knob of butter in a large saucepan with a splash of oil, and add the onions. Cook over a low heat for 5-10 minutes or until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and sage and cook for another couple of minutes.

Add the stock, most of the chestnuts (keep one or two aside as garnish) and some salt and pepper and let it simmer gently for fifteen minutes. Then blend with a stick blender or food processor until very smooth, and pour back in the pan. Add the creme fraiche/yoghurt and bring slowly up to heat over a gentle flame,  trying not to let it boil.

Add a splash of oil to a small frying pan and fry the sage leaves for a few minutes or until crisp. Slice the reserved chestnuts - they're already cooked, so you don't need to do anything else to them. Serve the soup with a drizzle of olive oil, the sage leaves, the sliced chestnuts and a good grinding of black pepper. And, if you fancy it, some maple walnut bread.   


  1. Hi,
    I just love chestnut and your soup is really inviting. I also have a recipe for a chestnut soup with milk, it is really good.

    1. Thank you! Your soup sounds good, would love to hear a recipe - A


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