Chestnuts are usually the enemy of a quick meal. Roasting them and then removing their tough skins can take ages, especially if you're not particularly skilled at the process (like me). So I would have normally skipped right past this soup from Nigella Lawson's How To Eat if it hadn't called for canned chestnuts, which, it turns out, require absolutely no prep work. I can't comment on whether they taste as wonderful as the regular variety, but they sure do work well here.
Part of the success of the soup also comes from the red lentils, which are cooked until nearly falling apart. They look a little worn out by the end, but that doesn't matter much considering you're going to puree everything up at the end. The result is a creamy, slightly nutty soup that's more more complex than it looks. The cream sounds superfluous, but the contrast of the warm pureed soup and the cool cream works extremely well.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1/2 leek, minced
- 1 medium carrot, minced
- 1 celery stalk, minced
- 1 cup red lentils
- 6 1/3 cups vegetable stock
- 8 ounces canned chestnuts
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- heavy cream, for serving.
Pour the oil into a large Dutch oven set over medium heat. When warm, add the minced onion, leek, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften but don't brown.
Add the lentils, stir well, and then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat to maintain a simmer. Cook until the lentils are very soft, about 40 minutes. Add the chestnuts and simmer for 20 more minutes.
Carefully puree the soup in a blender. (You'll probably have to do this in batches.) When done, return the soup to the pot to warm it back up. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of parsley and a drizzle of heavy cream.