Stock up on cans of vacuum-packed chestnuts, which are normally readily available in good delis, shops and large supermarkets at Christmas time. If you want to keep the soup vegetarian, garnish it with some sautéed mushrooms instead of the smoked duck.
- 50g (2oz) dried mixed wild mushrooms
- 1 tblsp rapeseed oil
- 450g (1lb) peeled chestnuts, chopped (canned or vacuum packed)
- 100g (4oz) smoked duck, thinly sliced
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
- 1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken stock or vegetable stock (see link below)
- 200ml (7fl oz) cream
- Mushroom purée (see link below), to garnish
- Snipped fresh chives, to garnish
- Fresh micro herbs, to garnish
- Place the dried wild mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and pour in 400ml (14fl oz) of boiling water to cover. Set aside for 20 minutes, until they have plumped up. Drain the mushrooms and gently squeeze them dry, reserving the soaking liquid.
- Heat a large pan over a medium heat and add the rapeseed oil. Add the chestnuts, half of the smoked duck, the onion and drained wild mushrooms and sweat gently for 10 minutes, until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Season to taste.
- Add the thyme to the pan with the reserved soaking liquid and stock, stirring to combine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 20 minutes.
- Stir in the cream and allow to heat through for 1 minute, then whizz with a hand blender until as smooth as possible. Season to taste, then blitz again with a hand blender until light and foamy, tilting the pan to get the maximum effect.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Garnish each one with the mushroom purée, reserved smoked duck, chives and micro herbs.