There are fewer seasonal ingredients available toward the end of December, but sweet chestnuts can still be found, a trait which gives this dish a permanent spot at the Christmas dinner table. Interestingly enough, it was first served at the tables of both poor and exceptionally affluent families, which can be attributed to the difficulty in acquiring the plant. The peasant kitchens of old used chestnuts with glee, since there were often chestnut trees growing in the outskirts of villages or within backyards. But in cities where such natural sources were harder to come by, only the rich could afford them.
Translation by Tamás Vaski
In peasant kitchens, the most popular use of the ingredient was in chestnut cream soup, while city residents used it as a filling for poultry as well. The latter primarily made a sweet version, its function being more like that of a dessert, but the later arrival of salty variations brought new and exciting tastes to the spotlight. Even to this day, many consider chestnuts to be a terribly expensive ingredient, which can be attributed to Christmas fairs valuing roast chestnuts to gold. But this is only partially true, as they can be obtained quite affordably with enough research.
Furthermore, chestnuts have antioxidant qualities, are rich in vitamin E, high in B1, B2, and B6 vitamins, and contain a vitamin C level similar to that of raspberries and currants. While being rich in fiber, they also contain natrium, kalium, calcium, and phosphorous.
Chestnut cream soup can be prepared either sweet or salty, but perhaps the salty version has a more exciting taste and functions as a richer appetizer.
Chestnut Cream Soup
- 300-400 g boiled or roasted and cleaned chestnuts (if there are none then 400 g of natural chestnut paste will work too)
- 1-2 carrots
- 1 onion
- 1 garlic clove
- 200 g sour cream
- Fresh thyme (dried thyme also works if it is not available fresh)
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
Finely chop the onion and carrots, and cook them on a minimal amount of oil until they are glassy. Add the chestnuts (if using chestnut paste, it should only be added at the end, together with the fresh spices, since it does not need to be cooked) add salt, pepper, and top it up with as much water as is needed to cover it. Cook it until the vegetables have softened. Pour in the sour cream, add the spices, and bring it to a boil once more. Finally, turn it into a puree using a hand mixer.
It can be served and garnished with roasted chestnuts, roasted seeds, a small amount of sour cream, or even some croutons.
Photos by Péter Csákvári/Hungary Today