Tuesday 30 December 2008

Chestnut, parsnip and orange soup

On the weekend I was over the other side of the river and dropped into Prahran Market because it is the cheapest place that I have found for buying chestnut puree in Melbourne. The reason I needed a tin of puree was that my mum had given me leftover parsnips from the Christmas dinner and yet again I thought of Sophie’s chestnut, parsnip and orange soup.

Although the weather was too warm for such a wintery dish, the soup seemed perfectly festive for this time of year. I also had some of the spiced walnuts leftover from my Christmas salad that seemed jut right as a garnish for the soup.

I didn’t quite follow Sophie’s instructions. She roasted her parsnips before simmering them, but I didn’t fancy turning on the oven in the hot weather. She also used whole cooked chestnuts but I am not sure where to buy these in Melbourne – apart from on street corners and experience has taught me that it is preferable to let someone else peel chestnuts for me. I was a little concerned that the soup would be a bit thin as it cooked, but it did come together to be just the right velvety consistency.

Sophie notes that there is not much that you can do to make the soup unhealthy. But I did use butter instead of olive oil, in the spirit of seasonal indulgence. Then I added more seasoning because I still find chestnut puree a little strangely sweet - I even checked the tin to make sure it wasn't sweetened this time after a comment from Lysy when I last used chestnut puree. Nevertheless, the soup still felt quite healthy and, with a piece of sprouted bread from the market, was a substantial meal.

Health concerns aside, this soup was delicious. The flavours are warm and cosy. It the perfect soup to take a sprinkling of nutty spicy garnish if you do have some spiced walnuts on hand or the time to make some.

Chestnut, parsnip and orange soup
(adapted from Mostly Eating)
Serves 4

1 tbsp butter
1 brown onion, peeled and chopped
4 small/medium parsnips, peeled
½ carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
200g chestnut puree
1 litre vegetable stock
4 tbsp juice from a freshly squeezed orange (about ½ an orange)
Salt or extra stock powder, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

For the topping:
Four tbsp plain yogurt
Zest of half an orange
4 tbsp finely chopped parsley
4 tbsp finely chopped spiced walnuts*

*NB If you don’t have spiced walnuts, you can just add some nutmeg or spices of choice to the yoghurt mixture.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Sauté the onion, parsnips and carrot in for 10-15 minutes over a low heat. They should soften but not brown. Add stock and chestnut puree. Check seasoning. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare topping. Chop parsley and finely grate orange zest. Mix with yoghurt in a small bowl. Finely chop spiced walnuts

When soup has simmered for 20 minutes, check parsnips are cooked. If not, continue to simmer till parsnips are soft. Then puree soup with hand held blender or by other means such as food processor. Add orange juice and black pepper to taste. Thin soup with water or stock if too thick.

To serve, ladle soup into a bowl. Spoon some yoghurt mixture into the bowl and sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

On the stereo:
The BBC Sessions: Belle and Sebastian


  1. Oooh, how did you know I've got a bag of chestnuts (courtesy of my sister's visit) to use? I can't decide between this and your chestnut roast, but I think I may have to go with the latter, as I've never had chestnuts before and that sounds so substantial and yummy. The soup does look gorgeous, though--may need to get another bag! ;)

  2. I HAVE to try this.
    Unfortunately, finding parsnip is very much of a challenge in central Italy. I might have to substitute turnips or carrots for them.

    However, as French, I am pleased to note that the Clement Faugier products can be found as far as Australia!

    Wishing you a Happy New year, Johanna!

  3. A timely reminder of a recipe I've been meaning to try. Have chestnuts in the cupboard right now. :)

  4. Thanks Ricki - a bag of chestnuts sounds wonderful - but if you have to peel them I would like to hear how you do it (I hope for your sake they are already peeled) - I have some leftover puree and am thinking of making cake with it!

    thanks Nathalie - isn't it weird that you can't find parsnips but chestnuts are readily available (I think the only chestnuts I have found are tinned variety imported from France which makes them a bit of a luxury here) - happy new year to you too!

    thanks Wendy - this soup seems much more suited to a Scottish winter than a Melbourne summer - am sure you will enjoy!

  5. I never do think to cook with parsnips, but this sounds wonderful.

    All the best for the new year Johanna!

  6. Your soup looks so welcoming! I meant to do this during winter when I had chestnuts but I ran out of time. But looking at that I'll definitely make some time this coming Winter :)

  7. Another inspiring use of chestnuts! You can get vacuum-packed whole chestnuts here which I think are already peeled (I'd also be a bit put off by having to roast and peel them myself). I like the photo with the garnish - very professional

  8. Thanks Lisa - I don't cook with parsnips enough but love them when I do

    thanks Lorraine - it is really a winter soup but weather here in Melbourne has been conduicive to wintery food lately

    thanks Lysy - haven't seen vaccum packed chestnuts here in Melbourne but that is what Sophie used so probably the best option

  9. The ones I have are already peeled, thankfully. But the bag was quite a bit smaller than I'd realized (just over 100g)--so I'm wondering if I might do chestnut burgers instead of a loaf!

  10. Glad you enjoyed this Johanna. I still think it's one of my favourite soups - in fact I made it on Boxing Day using the leftover roast parnsips from our Christmas dinner. And I love your spiced walnut topping twist!

  11. Ricki - I am sure halving the chestnuts in this soup would be fine but burgers sound good too!

    thanks Sophie - this soup is an excellent way to use up leftover roast parsnips - and I was pleased to find such a good use for my leftover spiced walnuts


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