There are few better foods with which to celebrate the holiday season than creamy, aromatic chestnut soup. Its delicious fragrance makes it the perfect dish to whip up before your dinner guests arrive. The spiced version from Aliya LeeKong, Brooklyn, N.Y.C.-based cook and author of Exotic Table: Flavors, Inspiration, and Recipes from Around the World—to Your Kitchen ($26; amazon.com), is no exception. LeeKong, a first-generation American and the daughter of Indo-Pakistani and Tanzanian immigrants, says, “The inspiration for this dish comes from an Anglo-Indian soup called mulligatawny, which my mom made for me growing up. In lieu of using the traditional lentils, I chose some lovely, sweet chestnuts.” Try the recipe below!
Spiced Chestnut Soup
Serves 4–6 (yields approximately 5½ cups)
3 tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
½ tsp minced ginger
1 small red chili, finely chopped
¾ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp turmeric
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
4–5 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb peeled, cooked whole chestnuts
1 bay leaf
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 (13½-oz) can coconut milk
3 tbsp heavy cream
Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to taste (can take a few squeezes)
Salt, to taste
Small handful of cilantro, finely chopped, for garnish
Hazelnut or other nut oil, for garnish
1. Heat a Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat and add butter. Watch closely. When foam subsides, add shallot and a bit of salt to draw out the moisture. Let sweat for a minute or so. Add ginger, chili, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and cayenne. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until shallots are translucent and super soft. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, until fragrant.
2. Add chestnuts and stir to combine. Let cook for about 2 minutes and then add the bay leaf and stock. Bring up to a boil, lower to a simmer, and simmer covered for 20 to 25 minutes. You want the chestnuts to easily break apart with your wooden spoon.
3. Remove bay leaf and, in a blender or using a hand blender, purée until smooth. Strain if desired to remove any bits. Add coconut milk, heavy cream and lemon juice, and adjust seasoning to taste.
4. Serve hot with a little fresh chopped cilantro and a drizzle of hazelnut oil on top.