Lentil, Shiitake and Chestnut Soup

I’ve been thinking about this soup combination since last winter but failed to try it until now.  It’s the sort of soup you can make a meal out of, perfect to warm your belly after a good long walk on a cold sunny day like today.  The first time I made it last week it was a real storecupboard recipe as I had no vegetables apart from onions, and a very welcomed lunch it made.

Many years ago when I was first married I use to buy fresh chestnuts, cook them, peel their horrible furry skins that stuck to the flesh, chopped them before adding to my chestnut stuffing for the Christmas turkey…yep…as soon as I discovered vacuum pack chestnuts I’ve never looked back.  I’m not allowed to open the packs until the last minute before adding to the soup because I can not stop eating them…they’re a childhood memory for me along with pine cones.  If I had large amounts of chestnuts I would try them with just a combination of fresh and dried mushrooms as I can picture it tasting good.

I’ve made three variations now, changing the lentils from the puy type to just ordinary green lentils (puy type because there’s more than one lentil looking like the puy but grown elsewhere and very nice too) the puy style ones have a stronger flavour.  I’ve exchanged the dried shiitake to mixed dried mushrooms because it’s quite difficult to get hold of just shiitake mushroom in the supermarket, waitrose sell them.  I’ve also made it with non-roasted and roasted chestnut packs, using chicken stock or just water.  Depending what you choose it will vary slightly but it will result in the same strong tasting hearty soup.  There isn’t a strong taste of chestnuts on the amount I’ve added here but they bring a richness to the soup.  Bikerboy said he could taste the chestnuts, a friend said he could taste the chestnuts in the first version more than the second batch I made, and I could primarily taste lentil followed by the shiitake.

If you use chicken stock it will give a more full bodied flavour, if using just water I would also add a carrot and a leek as these are your stock vegetables.  I would avoid a stock cube here, don’t have a problem with them in the right place but here I think it would impart its flavour too much.  Don’t do what I do and add too much thyme overpowering everything.

Lentil, Shiitake and Chestnut Soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • oil for sweating onion
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 250 gms of puy or green lentils
  • shiitake mushrooms, small handful about 10grms soaked in boiling water for at least half an hour, reserve the water for soup
  • 1 pack of cooked chestnuts
  • 500 ml of homemade chicken stock * (or all water)
  • 500 ml of water
  • salt and pepper (it will need a good deal of salt having two starches)

*  I make the simplest stock just by boiling the carcass of the roasted chicken or saving the water from poaching chicken, don’t even bother with vegetables.

Sweat the onion in the oil until soften, add the chopped carrot and leek and follow with the rest of the ingredients until the lentils are soft, about half an hour.  Liquidise and add more water if needed until you have the constancy you like and adjust the seasoning.

The roasted chestnuts have a stronger taste than the plain cooked ones but it still didn’t have a strong taste in the soup, this amount produces a subtle taste and adds richness to the soup.

Today when making my third batch of this soup combo, I was in heaven since I had a spare pack of chestnuts to snack on while I made the soup  I then discovered the pleasure of alternating a chestnut with homemade croutons...creamy nutty…then…crispy crunchy…creamy nutty…crispy crunchy…happy..happy…happy me.

Roasted chestnuts on the left and the unroasted on the right.