Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cooking with Leon

One of my favorite restaurants in London is called Leon. Ok, so maybe it's not really a restaurant, more of a fast food joint- but everything they serve is natural, delicious and good for you. What more could you ask for?? Their menu is always changing in terms of the seasons with new dishes and old favorites so you can always bank on weather appropriate food. Like this Winter Root Soup with Sage and Chestnuts from their new cookbook. I absolutely LOVE chestnuts and since my local grocery had them on sale (they must think it's only a Christmas food) I knew this was meant to be. And this recipe sure did deliver- it practically converted my chesnut-hating boyfriend who could not stop talking about the "really good flavor". So try it out, yee of little chesnut-faith, and report back!

We start out, like most soup recipes, with a lot of chopping (at night... which explains the golden hue of these pictures...)

Here we have some chopped onion, chestnuts, carrots, a parsnip and a large turnip. (not pictured: a bundle of sage)

After reducing the onions in some butter, add in all the veggies and cook on low heat covered for about 35 minutes or until tender. When I did this, my veggies started blackening and sticking to the bottom so I added in some chicken broth to loosen things up. In retrospect, I think I had my heat up too high, so watch that flame!
Then add in the rest of the chicken broth and chopped sage. Bring to a boil and then let simmer a bit.
Sprinkle the top with some reserved chestnuts and ENJOY!

Winter Root Soup with Sage & Chestnuts
From the Leon cookbook by Allegra McEvedy

Slow cooking is the right way to get the most of your root veg, and matched up here with some chestnuts for sweetness and winter's favorite herb, sage, they really are deserving of their place centre stage. Obviously if you can get them, and have the time and inclination, roasting your own chestnuts would be even more rewarding. We felt this was more of a butter kind of soup, but olive oil can always be used instead- better for you, but in this intance maybe a little less yum for the vegans.

Serves 5+
  • 75g Butter
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 150g pre-cooked, vacuum-packed chestnuts, chopped
  • 1 good-sized parsnip
  • 1/3 of a small celeriac, cut into chunky dice
  • 2 mall or 1 large carrot, cut into chunky dice
  • 1/3 of a swede, cut into chunky dice
  • 1.5 litres light vegetable stock
  • a small handful of sage, leaves picked and chopped
  • a small handful of thyme, leaves picked an chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a big handful of flat-leaf parsley, leaves picked and chopped
  • salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a large pan and fry the onions and two thirds of the chesnuts until the onions have softened
After about 10 minutes add the root veg and continue to cook until they are slightly tender- about half an hour with the lid on.
Now add the stock, sage, thyme and bay leaves and to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
Check the seasoning, then take out about 3 large ladlefuls of the veg with a slotted spoon and blend to a puree. Add this back to the soup to thicken it, then stir in the parsley.
Slice the rest of the chestnuts and scatter them on top, then season well, my friend.

Claire's Note: I found that this soup made enough for 2 people and did not need any thickening. it might be that i didn't have all the proper vegetalbes, but I thought I had made proper substitutions in terms of amount.... so who knows. Just be sure to keep the heat on low when cooking the root veg in the beginning or you will end up with a black-bottomed pot.

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