The plan was to post this before New Year’s Eve so you could make it for New Year’s day. Lentils are a traditional dish in Italy for New Year’s Day, following an old belief that the more lentils you eat on New Year’s day (and right after midnight on New Year’s Eve definitely counts), the more money you will have. Now you know the secret!
But, but, but, but, but…. I was in the last days before the move and any intention to blog remained a mere reverie. It is still January, though, so the excuse to make this most divine of lentil soups is still very much valid. Not that an excuse is needed to prepare good food, especially when it is this easy.
Of course, I have been making lentil soup in several ways since the dawn of civilization, but it was not until relatively recently that I thought of adding kabocha, yes, but especially chestnuts. The first time I did that was for a little dinner party I was hosting at my Honolulu apartment. I thought I would make extra soup so I could have some leftover for a myself for a couple of days. Yeah, right! It was ALL gone at the speed of light, and I even caught a friend cleaning out the pot with a piece of bread.
I have been asked for the recipe ever since and, well, sorry it took so long, and here it finally is!
LENTIL SOUP WITH CHESTNUTS, KABOCHA AND ROSEMARY
– yields 10-12 portions ca.
– 454 gr. (16 oz.) lentils – I prefer the divine little Lenticchie di Castelluccio from the Umbria region of Italy, but I cannot always find them in local grocery stores, so my next choice are the little green French lentils
– 3 carrots, chopped
– 2-3 celery stalks, chopped
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 3 liters (12.7 cups) vegetable broth, steaming hot – if you are buying broth already made, the best one I have found so far is the 365 organic Whole Foods brand available at their stores
– 630 gr. (1 lb. & 6 oz.) kabocha pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes (this can be prepped the day before if you like)
– 630 gr. (1 lb. & 6 oz.) chestnuts, boiled, peeled and broken into pieces – since I cannot find fresh chestnuts where I live, I have found very good ones in a jar from Williams-Sonoma, though they are available only during chestnut season (October-November)
– 10 garlic cloves, peeled, cut in half and core removed
– 10-12 sprigs of fresh rosemary + extra for garnish if you wish
– extra-virgin olive oil
– sea salt
– freshly cracked black pepper
1. Pour the lentils in a largish bowl and add cold water to cover. Let sit while you prep the vegetables.
In a large soup pot, heat about 4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil with four (4) of the garlic cloves, and the leaves of four (4) sprigs of fresh rosemary. When it all starts sizzling, add the chopped carrot, celery and onion mix, season with salt and pepper and stir. Allow to cook and gather flavor for a couple of minutes, then add the lentils. Once again season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the hot broth, stir, and let simmer, covered with the lid slightly open on the side, until the lentils are cooked, about an hour for these lentils.
2. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, you can prep the pumpkin (peel, seed and cut into small cubes) and the chestnuts, which I like to use broken into pieces as a whole chestnut is too big of a bite in a soup such as this.
To sauté the pumpkin: in a large (non-stick) sauté pan heat about 3 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil with 3 garlic cloves and the leaves of 3-4 sprigs of rosemary. Let sizzle and gather flavor, then add the pumpkin. Season with salt and pepper and flip, or stir with a non-metal spatula. Let cook adjusting the heat as needed, flipping or stirring regularly for a few minutes, until tender but still a little al dente, and a little browned and nicely flavored. Set aside.
3. The chestnuts are already cooked, you just have to sauté them quickly so they gather flavor and toast a little. The process is the exact same as for the pumpkin: heat 2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive with the remaining 3 garlic cloves and leaves of 3-4 sprigs of rosemary. When all this sizzles, add the chestnuts and season with salt and pepper, then flip or stir. Let the chestnuts gather flavor and heat through for a couple of minutes, then turn off and set aside.
4. When the soup is cooked, turn off the heat and remove from the stove. Add the sautéd pumpkin and chestnuts and stir. All ready! You can serve the soup right away with a little drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil to finish it off.
If you are not going to eat it right away, let it cool completely to room temperature, then transfer the soup to containers and store covered in the refrigerator for up to a week. Freeze it if you must (up to three months), but this soup is so good and so satisfying that it will not last very long.
Just a gentle reminder: I always use all organic ingredients, and good quality Italian extra-virgin olive oil. If you are among those who have tasted my soup and loved it, you will need to follow the recipe without modifications in order to get the same flavor and texture.
So, off to the kitchen and cook away! If you make this, let me know how you like it.
Other delicious soup recipes you will enjoy: