It’s officially Winter! I’ve decided we need to eat more hot, comforting soup. this soup reminds me of winter visits to the eternal city. Wandering the deserted streets after an evening out the aroma of roasted hot chestnuts are a welcome distraction. At many street corners, old men, well wrapped up, stand over a brazier turning carefully arranged glossy chestnuts so that they roast evenly. The smell is irresistible. They will happily fill a paper poke brimming with chestnuts with a small lip at the side where you can store your empty shells. The streets are spotlessly clean and dropping then at the sides of the road would not be appreciated.

Tins of chestnuts are available here, but I prefer the French vacuum packed ones. They’re packed in convenient 2oog packs, perfect for making stuffing , roasting with sprouts or making this delicious soup. you can make it ahead of time and freeze, ready for when you need it.


2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove

1 small piece dried chilli

200g cubes smoked pancetta or bacon

2 shallots, finely chopped

2 sticks celery, peeled and finely chopped

400g vacuum pack ready cooked chestnuts

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1.5 litres boiling water

2 tablespoons dry sherry

2 sprigs fresh thyme

Sea salt and ground black pepper

125ml double cream

flat leaf parsley

Warm the olive oil in a sauté pan and gently cook the garlic and chilli to flavour the oil.

Remove the garlic and chilli

Add the smoked pancetta cubes and cook until browned.

Set aside a tablespoon of these to garnish.

Add the shallots and celery and sauté until soft and translucent.

Now, add the chestnuts, stir for a few minutes , (transfer a few as well to garnish).

Add the potatoes, boiling water and sherry. Add the fresh thyme and simmer for 20 - 25 minutes until the potatoes have softened.

Remove the thyme and whizz everything with a hand blender and pass through a sieve to leave a smooth soup.

Add some water if the consistency is too thick and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Reheat and serve garnished with a swirl of cream, some pieces of cooked chestnuts, pancetta and a sprinkling of fresh chopped parsley.

Vegan Version

The great thing about this soup is you can make a easily adjust the recipe to make a vegan version.

Use a home-made vegetable stock or stock cube instead of the water. Leave out the smoked pancetta and the cream. There is plenty of flavour in the chestnuts and herbs to make it tasty . Serve with olive oil herbed croutons .