Chorizo-Chestnut Soup, No D-Word in Sight

Chorizo and Chestnut Soup 

Oof, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I mean, the new year has been around long enough by now that I don’t even catch myself scrawling a 7 where there should be an 8. In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have left you with a tale of food poisoning before going AWOL, but worry not, the two have nothing to do with each other. What I should have done was hang a ‘closed for maintenance’ sign up here for the first couple weeks of January – not site maintenance, mind you, but self maintenance. Yes, it’s true: as much as I loathe the whole if-it’s-January-it-must-be-time-to-suffer bandwagon, it seems I never can resist buying a ticket and hopping on. I mean, every yin has its yang, right? And to counter our holiday yin, whose highlights this year included meter-long bratwursts, zwiebelkuchen, glühwein, raclette, fondue, daily breakfasts of croissants piled high with every kind of meat, cheese and jam under the sun, mid-afternoon trysts with coffee and cake, and near-nightly ‘snacks’ of Turkish lahmacun and döner kebabs in the early hours after yet another alcohol-fueled reunion with long-lost friends, there now exists a drastic need for some yang. I haven’t even mustered the courage to step on the scale yet, though in light of the howls of despair that emanated from the bathroom when Manuel did, I think that’s probably for the best.

But as dire as the situation may be, there’s a certain four-letter word beginning with ‘D’ you’ll never hear uttered around here. For one thing, it makes my palms all sweaty. For another, I’ve tried plenty of those ‘D’s and have come to the conclusion that they’re all designed to function as endless vicious cycles: deny, suffer, relent, panic, deny, suffer, relent. Instead, what I try to do in January is clean up my lifestyle a little bit, you know in a less-of-the-bad-stuff and more-of-the-good kind of way, and most importantly, do it in a way that doesn’t leave me entirely miserable. After all, January is cold and miserable enough without having to contemplate things like Equal®-speckled grapefruit halves and fat-free salad dressing (though let’s face it, I would rather gouge my eyes out with a spork than find either of those on my plate at any time of year!), so I know if that if the new, healthier me is going to stand a chance of making it past February, what I eat had better be satisfying. And preferably, hot and filling. And that’s where soup comes in.

Since soup, at its purest, need be nothing more than a simple, well-seasoned puree of vegetables, it is perfect self-improvement fare. Slurp down a bowl at the start of every meal and I swear, no matter what else you’re eating you’ll never feel deprived. Of course I’m also happy making soup the main event, but for this role I prefer something a bit heartier. Some meat perhaps, and something starchy, and of course it needs to be full of strong, punchy flavors. Pretty much exactly what you’ll find in this soup, a fantastic recipe from one of my treasured Moro cookbooks. An inspired (and quite likely invented, but don’t quote me on that) juxtaposition of Spanish ingredients, the flavors work together beautifully; the chorizo gives it just the right smoky depth, the chestnuts add body and a gentle sweetness, and saffron and chili tickle your tastebuds and warm you from the inside out. It was filling, scrumptious, and remarkably healthy too, particularly after I impulsively chucked in a few handfuls of chopped leafy greens. You know, anything to make myself believe that I’m really taking this whole clean-living thing seriously. Which, on days when there’s soup like this on the menu, isn’t actually all that hard to do.

p.s. For more easy-peasy soup ideas, check out this ancient post of mine. I still swear by the method!

p.p.s. Hooray for us – we raised $91,188.00 in December’s Menu for Hope!!! Thanks to each and every one of you who helped make it success, and congratulations to Shuna, lucky winner of the Moro Cookbook trilogy!

Chorizo and Chestnut Soup

Did you know chestnuts have the least fat of any nut at only 10%, and that nutritionally they resemble brown rice? Yup, who knew they were perfect January food? Around here, January is actually a great time to buy chestnuts because they’re often marked down post-Christmas; I often buy several packages of the vacuum-packed kind to use in all kinds of things over the coming months. If you can only find fresh chestnuts, however, and don’t mind going through the whole cooking and peeling rigamarole, by all means feel free, but in all honesty, I don’t know if I would bother. Instead I might substitute a mixture of, say, cubed sweet potato and butter beans. It wouldn’t be quite the same, of course, but I daresay it would capture the spirit pretty well. Oh, and I suppose you’re wondering what’s up with the quantities for the chorizo. Well, the original recipe calls for only a quarter-pound, but in a moment of reckless abandon (and ’cause I luuuvz it so much) I threw in twice that amount. Living dangerously, don’t I know it!
Serves: 4
Source: Adapted from The Moro Cookbook, by Sam and Sam Clark 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
1 celery stick, chopped
4-8 oz (120-250g) Spanish cooking chorizo (Portuguese choriço would also be fine, or in a pinch substitute any garlicky smoked sausage), cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) cubes
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/2 teaspoon chili flakes or cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2-3 canned plum tomatoes, drained and roughly chopped
1 lb (500g) shelled chestnuts, fresh or vacuum-packed, roughly chopped

pinch (about 20) saffron threads, crumbled
4 cups (1l) water
about 1 lb. (450g) fresh chard or kale, tough stalks removed, washed and cut into ribbons (optional)
salt and black pepper

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, chorizo and a generous pinch of salt and fry gently for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the whole thing caramelizes and turns a fragrant golden brown.

Now, add the garlic, cumin, thyme and chilli and cook for a minute more, then add the tomato and, after a couple more minutes, the chestnuts. Give everything a good stir and then add the saffron, water, and chard or kale if using, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until everything is soft.

Remove the pot from the heat and with a potato masher, gently mash until the chestnuts have broken down and the soup seems quite thick. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot with whole-grain bread.


19 thoughts on “Chorizo-Chestnut Soup, No D-Word in Sight

  1. i love chestnuts in soup…its *so* starchy that it presents an interesting mouthfeel, doesnt it? i have to confess tho’ that i sometimes use canned chestnut paste(unsweetened, of course)…but little bits of chestnuts add a different texture, indeed.other chestnut soups include chestnut, puy and truffle(the real deal…but i suppose truffle oil or butter or salt will also work if the budget’s a tad tight)…and another interesting one…fennel and chestnut soup….consider ricard your friend, M. now, after reading this recipe, i am thinking that saffron will go well too with the fennel-chestnut soup..considering it goes well with anisey flavours.thanks for the recipe and may 2008 be all that you hope for it to be…

  2. Just wanted to respond because I enjoy reading your stuff so much. The food of course is fantastic, and so appropriate as I read this eating my lunch of squash soup! Last night, my husband and I made the "Salad, simply" recipe we found here – I don’t think I will ever pour salad dressing on my salads again, was such a simple change, but very nice and fresh. I can’t wait to try more!!Thanks!!

  3. Hi Melissa,In the last few months, you may remember receiving an email invitation to become a part of the Foodbuzz Featured Publisher Program. With all the recipe-writing and food photography to be completed, we know emails can easily get lost in the shuffle, so Foodbuzz would like to re-extend our offer of inviting you to be a part of our food blogger network. I would love to send you more details about the program, so if you are interested, please email me at I also wanted to say your picture of the chestnut soup (and the fruitcake below) is absolutely beautiful, as is your entire blog!Cheers!Shannon EliotEditorial Assistant,

  4. That sounds lovely. I just made a pork roast with chestnuts, and it was also very warming and winter-relieving. Chestnuts are a favorite flavor of mine, though they can be a beast to roast and shell. Have you ever tried dried chestnuts? They are cheaper than the fancy canned ones, and much easier than roasting/peeling business, which always seems to result in nasty shell bits under my fingernails. (I’m probably not doing it properly.)The dried ones seem to work particularly well in soups, where they have plenty of time to rehydrate. Around here- I can only find them in Italian shops, around the winter holidays.

  5. Made the soup base last night with the soffritto (frist paragraph to second paragraph up to adding the tomatoes). Used chicken chorizo (found at Trader Joe’s) without the casing & a pinch of smoked paprika plus red pepper flakes. Salted it along the way per Alice Water’s soup making instruction. Added the kale and the roasted chestnuts this morning. Had a bowl of it before noon served with homemade 70% whole rye bread with flax seeds and sunflower seeds. I love chestnuts to begin with so this soup is what I have been longing for. Eating while viewing a snowy Sierra Valley. What could be better than a hearty bowl of soup in this wintery weather?I had some earl grey tea with the meal. The tea had a lingering sweet taste prob. due to the chestnut sweetness. Will try to snap a photo and post it on my flickr album.Thanks very much, Melisa. ps: Your photos and writing are exquisite as always!

  6. Bea – I’m hoping to start a trend; maybe if no-one says the entire word anymore they’ll banish it from the English language… ;)Faustianbargain – Interesting that you mention chestnuts and fennel, as I recently bookmarked a recipe for just such a soup. Time to buy more chestnuts!Monica – Oh, that’s great to hear! I love the ritual of making that salad, not to mention it’s one of the few excuses I can find to stick my fingers in my food… ;)Suzana – I was just admiring your chicken curry with chestnuts. You know, it was a Portuguese friend of mine who introduced me to chestnuts. He ate about fifty kilos of them every winter!Lindy – I usually don’t mind the ritual of roasting/boiling and peeling chestnuts if the only thing I plan to do with them is eat them, but if it’s just a first step before cooking them I find it really a really tedious chore. I haven’t come across dried chestnuts, but they sound like a great alternative. How do they compare price-wise with the canned variety?Mily – So glad you liked it! It is exactly the kind of soup you’d want to find in your bowl on a snowy afternoon, isn’t it? And with homemade rye bread, mmm…

  7. for anyone in the uk Tesco currently have jars of chestnuts reduced to clear their Xmas stock. Must go back and get more as the chorizo and chestnut soup will definitely be made again. I used cavolo nero too instead of kale. Deelish and b….. the D…!

  8. Melissa: The dried are much, much cheaper than the canned, I forgot to mention that! Very good for long cooked items with lots of liquid, so they get totally softened up. And, being dried, they keep forever. Next christmas, I’m going to buy a lot more, and keep them in a glass jar for the rest of the year.

  9. Melissa, I love your site! Your photos and recipes are fantastic and I always look forward to seeing what you’ll write next. Thanks for sharing your kitchen with the rest of us across the world…even if it only furthers my food obsession and waistline! Your chorizo and chestnut soup looks fantastic and we’ll definitely give it a try! Cheers to you!

  10. I have come across your blog today, having found it on Cupcake Project. I have now spent 3 hours looking through the recipes(I like food, alot!), and through your journals. Your writing is wonderfully warm and funny, and all of the food looks delicious! This soup has been my favourite one so far, and i am definitely going to make it!

  11. Made this soup today, ready for lunch tomorrow – it smells gorgeous! I did have to simmer it all afternoon to get it near to the consistency i wanted it to be (whenever I put things on "medium" they always look like they're cooking too violently!) and even now it's still a little water-ier than I would like – yours looks lovely and thick in the photo!Having said that, I still can't wait to try it!AmyP.S. My bookmarks folder is currently full of all the recipes i found on here that I want to try 😀

  12. Just realised the watery-ness was probably down to the fact that I only had 200g of chestnuts (instead of 500g) in the house and I couldn't wait to make it so just did it with what I had!Now I know for next time 😀

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