Chestnut, parsnip and orange soup

by sophie on January 4, 2008 · 20 comments

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Soup is the perfect food for this time of year; suitably healthy if you ate a few too many mince pies but comforting enough to pacify those of you stuck with snow blizzards or malingering colds. This recipe is for my new favourite, a soup made with roast parsnips, chestnuts and finished off with fresh orange juice and a dollop of zesty, spiced yogurt.

Full bodied is the most fitting description I can conjure for this soup. My other half (the triathlete) raved about it for its deep, near meaty flavour and for myself, well I can’t resist a roast parsnip and the nutmeg, orange zest and yogurt topping adds that bit of freshness that I can’t help looking around for now that autumnal roasts and stews are starting to seem “so last year”.

Chestnuts are a funny old thing aren’t they? Delicious, but very different from your average nut and I couldn’t help but be intrigued about their composition. Chestnuts don’t have the typical nut benefits of high protein and heart healthy monounsaturated fat, but they do have plenty of fibre, and with hardly any fat (good or bad) they have massively less calories than your conventional nut. Pretty good for you, but strangely much closer in make-up to a parsnip than an almond.

I haven’t mustered up the courage/time to prepare my own chestnuts yet. Vacuum packed chestnuts work supremely well in this soup, though I am sure that freshly prepared would be even better. The tinned, whole chestnuts I tried in the second batch had less flavour and I have stuck to vacuum packed since. The soup is hearty enough to make a lunch without accompaniment but goes really well with walnut bread for a more substantial meal.

There isn’t too much you can do to make a soup unhealthy, just skip the butter and cream and go easy on any oil or cheese. Stock is potentially loaded with salt so use a low sodium stock if you can get a good one. If there are plenty of strong flavours going into the soup then it will do it no great harm to dilute the stock much more than the packet suggests. If you have your own tasty healthy soup recipe then blog it and send it to Joanna for her Heart of the Matter round-up of heart healthy soups (deadline 24th January).

Recipe for Chestnut, parsnip and orange soup

Serves 4

Makes four thick servings for hungry people but can be diluted to stretch a bit further. Note: it is much easier to grip hold of a whole orange to remove the zest and then cut it in half later!

For the soup
3 small/medium parsnips, peeled
200g pack roasted, ready-to-eat chestnuts
1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
4 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 litre vegetable stock
4 Tbsp juice from a freshly squeezed orange
Freshly ground black pepper

For the spiced yogurt
Four tablespoons of thick, plain yogurt
Zest of half an orange
Freshly grated nutmeg

Heat the oven to 190 C, 375 F, Gas mark 5.

Cut the parsnips into roughly even sized chunks and toss in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes, until golden in colour.

Using a deep pan, saute the shallots and carrot in the remaining tablespoon of oil for about 15 minutes. Use a low heat so that they soften but do not colour. Add the chestnuts and cook on low for about another five minutes.

Once the parnsip are cooked add them to the shallots, carrots and chestnut. Add the stock and simmer gently for 20 minutes.

Puree the soup with your blending equipment of choice (I use one of those hand blenders that you can stick straight into the soup pan). I like the soup to have a little bit of texture left in it.

Add the orange juice, taste and then season with black pepper.

If the soup is a little too thick add more hot water or stock.

Mix the spiced yogurt ingredients together. Top each bowl of soup with a dollop of yogurt just before serving.

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