Sometimes you just need soup.
You know those days, when the sky is dull grey and there is a chill starting to creep into the air and all you really want to do is be wrapped up in a warm blanket hug?! Well, this is what this soup feels like to me.
I’ve made many variations of this soup, using whatever fresh herbs I have on hand and are growing well in the garden, as well as subbing in different carrot types and sweet potato varieties.
Now, I usually opt to cook this inside, making using of the oven and cook top, however there’s something about that slight smokiness you get from cooking on the barbecue that lends itself to the creamy, smoky goodness of roasted chestnuts that really elevates this dish.
But before I go any further, I am going to put a little disclaimer in here. Do not close your barbecue lid when roasting your vegetables and do not add smoking wood chips to your coals (unless of course you really love that deep smoked taste, then by all means go ahead).
I have made this dish both ways with divided opinions. Some loving the extra smokiness (from the closed lid and smoking chips) teamed with the zing of creamy sour cream, while others preferring the more subtle smoky chestnut flavour when cooked without the chips and lid closed. I guess different opinions and variety really are the spice of life!
Disclaimer over, I’ll go on with my soupy tale…
I’ve always loved the smell of roasting nuts over a fire, with my first experience being with macadamia’s, wrapped in foil and pushed deep into the smouldering coals of a camp fire. That first taste of hot, creamy and slightly smoky macadamia had me totally hooked.
Fast forward to a few years ago and we were walking through the streets of Rome. We were wandering aimlessly, content to meander and take in the gorgeous architecture and quaint beauty of the little alley ways, when I catch a whiff of something delicious. We followed my nose, sniffing the air as we followed the scent trail (I know what you’re thinking, and yes I would have looked a little weird, but that’s the price you pay when you want to discover something tasty). It wasn’t long until we came across a beautiful elderly lady standing in front of an old metal barrel, filled with hot coals and a large metal plate on top. She had piles of fresh chestnuts she had poured onto the hot plate and was stirring around, charring the shells until they split open, revealing the creamy flesh inside. She offered us a taste and we gladly accepted. She was very wise giving us a taste, as you can’t stop at one, they’re too good to stop at one! So we quickly handed over some Euros and purchased a large paper cone filled to the brim with the delicious goodness.
It was this moment and that content feeling in my stomach that led me to create this soup recipe. It is like a hug for my stomach and a nod to the feeling of nostalgia I get when I smell those chestnuts roasting. I hope it gives you stomach hugs as well and brings you much joy!
ROASTED PUMPKIN & CHESTNUT SOUP
1 whole butternut pumpkin (approx. 1 kg)
1 small sweet potato
2 tsp roasted garlic (I like to roast the whole bulb of garlic and squeeze out 3 – 4 cloves for the soup and store the rest in the fridge to use later in the week)
250g – 300g fresh chestnuts
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp fresh herbs (I like to use rosemary & oregano)
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp Vegeta Natur stock powder & 2 litres water OR 1 litre vegetable stock & 1 litre water
1. Stoke your coal based bbq and get the bbq burning to around 180 – 200 degrees celsius (or preheat your oven to this temperature).
2. Peel, deseed and chop your pumpkin into large cubes. Skin and quarter the onions, peel and chop up the sweet potato and carrots and tumble all vegetables into a metal tray.
3. Chop the top off the garlic bulb and bury in the middle of the vegetables (if not using whole bulb, take 3 – 4 cloves garlic and scatter them through the vegetables.
4. Scatter ripped up herbs, salt, pepper and nutmeg over the vegetables and drizzle the olive oil over them then place in the bbq and cover (or place in the oven). Bbq/bake for 45 – 60 minutes or until cooked through and golden.
5. While the vegetables are cooking, place the chestnuts in a cast iron pot and place the lid on, then place onto the coals. Shake the pot every few minutes for around 15 – 20 minutes, or until the chestnuts start to split open. Be very careful with this as chestnuts have a tendency to explode!
6. Once the chestnuts have cooked and split, allow them to cool until they are able to be handled. Once they are cool enough, peel the skins off and place into a large 4 litre stock/soup pot.
7. When the vegetables have finished cooking, place them into the large pot with the chestnuts, sprinkle over the vegeta and top with water. Bring to the boil and boil for a further 10 minutes.
8. After 10 minutes, whazz up the mixture with a stick blender until it is smooth.
I love to serve this in a large bowl with a large dollop of either natural yoghurt, coconut yoghurt or sour cream, along with some crunchy bread or toast. YUM!