I decided to try roasting chestnuts on Christmas Eve. I saw people roasting chestnuts on big, cast iron grills, all over Rome and didn't get a chance to try them. And they seemed like a totally idyllic thing to eat at Christmas (cue the Nat King Cole). So I bought some chestnuts, painstakingly scored little crosses on them with my utility knife, tossed them with olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary, and waited with anticipation of festive bliss as they roasted in the oven.
I had ten guests over on Christmas Eve and not one had tried a roasted chestnut before. Once cooled, I proudly brought a massive platter of the toasty beauties into the dining room as a curious crowd gathered. After wrestling with the peels a bit, we popped the crumbly innards into our mouths with excitement. . . "It tastes like a dry, baked potato." "Yeah, a really dry potato, but a bit sweet." A potato? A dry potato?! It was certainly not what any of us were expecting, least of all me. No buttery crunch? No toasty, warm nuttiness? None. Maybe they're better roasted over an open fire?
It goes without saying that I was left with a massive amount of skin-on, roasted chestnuts. On Boxing Day (the day after Christmas here in Canada) my darling father took to the task of peeling said chestnuts and reserving their meat in a bowl. "You can't just waste them!" he argued. So I did what any chic, modern, resourceful gal would do, I Googled! And that night, I adapted a recipe by Nigella Lawson (LOVE her!) and made a fabulously festive dinner out of my unconventional holiday leftovers.
Roasted Chestnut and Red Lentil Soup
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 2 sticks of celery, chopped
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 2 veggie bouillon cubes
- 6 cups water
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 cup roasted chestnut meat (To roast chestnuts: Buy 2 cups of chestnuts. Deeply and carefully score an X on the flat side of each nut. Toss with 2 tbsp olive oil, S&P and some fresh rosemary if you like. Place the chestnuts in an even layer on a big piece of aluminum foil and then gather up the foil edges around the nuts, leaving a nice big opening at the top. Place on a baking sheet and roast in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 30 - 40 min or until the peels curl up a bit. Let cool and then peel.)
-Optional garnish: soy sour cream or cashew cream and chopped parsley
In your favorite soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook the veg mixture until slightly softened.
Add the cinnamon, cumin, coriander, nutmeg and bouillon cubes and cook for one minute or until very fragrant.
Add the water, crank the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the lentils and reduce heat to medium low.
Add the chestnuts and simmer the soup until the lentils are very soft, about 20 - 30 min. You will know they are done when you can smush them on the side of the pot with a spoon very easily.
Puree the soup with an immersion blender (if you haven't got one, go buy one! They are very inexpensive and make blending soups such a breeze!) and season with S&P.
Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with a swirl of soy sour cream or cashew cream and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
This is very festive soup and warms you up from the inside out!