This is archetypal winter food – thick and warming. It’s filling enough for a simple mid-week lunch and delicious enough for a dinner party, especially with the optional booze. Serves 6
25g unsalted butter 1 medium onion, chopped 1 stick of celery, chopped, or 2 bay leaves
500g chestnuts, peeled I litre of hot chicken stock 220ml crème fraiche freshly grated nutmeg sea salt freshly ground black pepper dry sherry or madeira (optional)
Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan and, over a lowish heat, soften the onion and, if using, celery.
Stir in the chestnuts, then add the stock, the bay leaves (if using) and some salt and pepper (bearing in mind that your stock may be salty). Bring the soup to the boil, partially cover the pan and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Grate in a generous amount of nutmeg (omit it if you haven’t whole nutmeg), then stir in the crème fraiche. Bring back to the boil, partially cover and simmer for another 30-35 minutes to give a thick, pale soup.
Allow it to cool a bit, then blend it to a smooth, but not too smooth puree. If you feel it is too solid, thin it down with milk, stock or water. Check the seasoning.
Re-heat if necessary, then pour into soup plates, splashing some dry sherry or madeira into each if you wish.
Original photo by Kate Whitaker.