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Lentil soup with Chestnuts

  • This is one of my favourite soups from the Centre Region of Italy! The chestnut give a unique almost sweet taste to the stew. Very easy to make and healthy           

              1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
              1/4 cup finely chopped onion
              ¼ cup carrots in small cubes
              1 stick of celery in small cubes
               3 cloves of garlic
                Fine sea salt
                1 cup small brown lentils, such as castelluccio or colfiorito
                1 tablespoon tomato paste
                3 bay leafs
                20 chestnuts (fresh baked)
                3 leafy sprigs thyme
                Freshly ground black pepper
                4 (1/4-inch-thick) slices baguette, toasted
                Finely chopped fresh basil and/or marjoram for garnish (optional)

    In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots, celery and pinch salt; reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Add lentils and tomato paste; stir to combine, then add 4 cups water and bay leaf. Bring just to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes.

    Meanwhile, coarsely chop 12 chestnuts. In a large skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil and thyme over medium heat until oil is shimmering. Add chopped and whole chestnuts; cook, stirring occasionally, until chestnuts are lightly golden, about 5 minutes.

    When lentils have cooked 25 minutes, add chopped chestnuts and pan contents into pot with lentils. Continue cooking until lentils are tender, 10 to 15 minutes more. Season soup with 1/4 teaspoon salt and generous pinch pepper, then ladle soup into serving bowls. Tuck whole chestnuts and toasts into soup. Garnish with fresh herbs, if using.