Chestnut Soup; a story

Use either fresh or canned chestnuts for this seasonal winter soup.  The chestnuts will cook down and break apart as the soup simmers.

If, like me, you bought chestnuts to have with the Brussels sprouts for Christmas, this is a great way to use up the rest.

We have guests at the moment and I made this the other night for our first course. Since it’s my own recipe I went online, to this blog, to get the recipe. As I read the story I had originally recounted with the recipe I decided they both deserved re-posting….

So here they are:

Chestnut Soup

Total time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 slices bacon,  (3oz, 90gr), chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 rib celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups chestnuts, cleaned and cooked (see note)
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cups (16oz, 480ml) chicken stock

Chestnut Soup

Instructions:

  • Sauté bacon in a medium saucepan.
  • When crisp, remove and drain fat.
  • Add butter to pan along with onion, celery, carrot and garlic.  Sauté until onion is tender.
  • Add chestnuts, bay leaves and stock. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Break any whole chestnuts up with the back of the spoon.
  • When soup is ready, remove bay leaves, ladle into bowls and serve.

Note:

  • Fresh chestnuts:  With a sharp knife cut an ‘X’ through tough outer shell.
  • Put in a saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and boil for 5 minutes.
  • Remove pan from heat.
  • Removing 1 chestnut at a time peel off shells and inner skin.
  • Chestnuts must stay hot to peel easily.  If they cool down too much while you are working, bring them to a boil again.
  • Put peeled chestnuts into a saucepan, cover with beef broth, bring to a simmer over medium heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until tender.

Print Recipe

When we lived in Andorra I had an excellent cleaner.

For the equivalent of about 25 US dollars per week she kept our house spotless.

Ours and half the other houses in our village.

She was Portuguese. She and her family: husband and 3 adult children (she was in her late 40’s), spouses and grandchildren, all lived and worked in Andorra. (Well, the grand-kids didn’t work.)

They worked very hard.

My cleaner’s day went something like this: 5am she cleaned one of the shops in the village. At 9am she was picked up by the owner of her first house to clean. Three hours later she was driven to the next house. Three hours later that client drove her to the next house. And so on throughout the day.  She came to us at 3pm on Thursdays. At 6pm I drove her down to the village where she had one last shop to clean before her day was done.

There were no breaks in her day….

They rented a small apartment in the village and she worked like that 6 or 7 days every week, as did the rest of the family at various jobs.

They had a plan, you see….

She and her husband had managed to raise their children to adulthood, but they had nothing, really, for themselves. They were poor. They found an old house in the foothills in Portugal that they wanted to restore and retire in. Jobs were scarce and not very well paying at that time in Portugal so they came to Andorra.

Their plan was to work, nonstop, at anything and everything they could, save every bit of their money and return to Portugal in 10 years time, retired.

She would do anything: one client only had her do the ironing and clean the bathroom; another had her plant tulips in the spring and trim his trees in the fall.

Twice a year they would drive all the way across Spain to Portugal for a week, to work on their house and visit their family.

She always brought pictures of their house to show me. Her husband was making the furniture by hand and she was crocheting the bedspreads and curtains, meticulously, out of fine, thin thread.

In front of their house was a big, old, chestnut tree. After their trip in late autumn she would bring me a huge sack of chestnuts – as well as some very excellent sweet wine her father-in-law made.

She spoke a little Catalan and some Spanish (along with Portuguese, of course) and I spoke a some Spanish and much less Catalan but we managed to become friends.

For 6 years my oven was always clean and my windows always sparkled.

A year after we left Andorra, she and her husband quit all their jobs, packed the car and went home to Portugal….

Retired.

I always think of her when I smell furniture polish…. There was a unique scent in the house when she was finished: lemon floor cleaner, bees wax furniture polish and, er, pungent body odor. I was always glad when I could have the windows down when I drove her down the mountain.

And I always think of her when I have chestnuts.

I hope she’s enjoying her retirement, sitting under the chestnut tree with a glass of sweet wine.

I end the year with that pleasant thought…..

Happy New Year Everyone!

Last update on July 15, 2019

5 thoughts on “Chestnut Soup; a story”

  1. Definitely made my day reading your story, may God Bless this lovely woman and her family in more ways they can imagine! Happy New Year!

  2. Ina, they worked so hard – and we’re always so cheerful.

    Deline, I have visions of her sitting under the chestnut tree, crocheting, with the grandkids lol

    Zoomie, Happy New Year to you, too!

    Thanks, Kate 😉

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