This soup from Neven Maguire makes a delicious starter for your Christmas meal or just a wholesome dish for over the winter period.

"This is one of my all-time favourite soups, particularly at Christmas, when vac-packed chestnuts are readily available. If you want to keep the soup vegetarian, leave out the smoked duck and garnish with some sautéed mushrooms instead. It can be made up to three days in advance and kept covered in the fridge. It can also be frozen for up to one month but may need to be blitzed with a hand-held blender when reheating, as it may split." – Neven Maguire

Ingredients

  • 50g dried mixed wild mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon rapeseed oil
  • 450g peeled chestnuts (canned or vacuum-packed), chopped
  • 100g (4oz) smoked duck, thinly sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1.2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
  • 200ml cream
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Snipped fresh chives, to garnish
  • Fresh micro herbs, to garnish

Method

  1. Put the dried wild mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and pour 400ml of boiling water over to cover. Set aside for 20 minutes, until they have plumped up. Drain the mushrooms and gently squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquid.
  2. Heat a large pan and add the 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.
  3. Add the thyme to the pan with the reserved soaking liquid and the 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-held blender until as smooth as possible. Season to taste, then blend again until light and foamy, tilting the pan to get the maximum effect.
  4. To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Garnish each one with the rest of the smoked duck, the chives and micro herbs.