Chestnut Soup with Pancetta and Cavolo Nero
This hearty Tuscan-inspired soup is a great way to make a meal out of a modest haul of sweet chestnuts, or to use up any left over from making our dark chocolate and sweet chestnut torte. You can substitute bacon lardons for the pancetta, and any winter greens for the cavolo nero.
- Roughly 150g cooked and peeled chestnuts (or about 300g whole chestnuts, see note below for how to prepare)
- 75g cubed pancetta or bacon lardons
- 2 tablespoons regular olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 litre chicken stock
- Roughly 100g cavolo nero or other greens (such as kale, savoy cabbage or spring greens)
- A tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, to serve
- If you’re using fresh chestnuts, prepare as directed below*.
- Put the pancetta into a large pan and set over a medium heat. Add the olive oil and fry the pancetta until golden brown and crisp. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- To the oil in the pan, add the chopped onion along with a pinch of salt. Cook the onion gently until softened and translucent, then add the peeled and cooked chestnuts. Keeping the heat low, let the chestnuts cook gently with the onions for a few minutes then add the stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes.
- The chestnuts should be quite soft by now. Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, crush about a third of the chestnuts into the stock to thicken the soup. Bring back to the boil.
- Cut away and discard the the thick central rib from the cavolo nero and finely shred the leaves. Add to the simmering soup along with the fried pancetta and cook for around 5 minutes until the greens are wilted but still bright green.
- Ladle into serving bowls. Serve drizzled with a little extra-virgin olive oil and pass the pepper grinder round at the table.
* To prepare sweet chestnuts start with roughly double the weight of peeled chestnuts you need. Using a strong, sharp knife, cut a slash in the skins of the nuts right around their middles. Put the slashed chestnuts in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer until the skins start to split. Turn the heat under the pan to low, to keep the nuts hot as you work. With a slotted spoon, lift out one chestnut at a time and, using a tea towel or rubber gloves to protect your hands from the heat, quickly peel off the skin. With any luck, the inner, fibrous husk will come away with the outer shell, but if any of it remains on the chestnut you should be able to scrape it off with the back of a knife. If not, return the chestnut to the pan for a few minutes and try again. Discard any chestnuts that are mouldy or rotten. When all the nuts are peeled, return them to the rinsed-out pan and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes, until tender to the point of a knife.
Recipe and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK