This soup is the very essence of Christmas, seasonal , hearty, comforting and until now, unavailable in this incarnation anywhere in print. It was a huge hit on our Christmas menu at Tavola.
This is my Christmas present to all former Tavola customers who will miss it this year. It is not complicated to make, is undeniably expensive but worth every penny.
If you make it in advance be very careful reheating it as it has a tendency to scorch on the bottom. If, when you have finished pureeing the soup it seems too thick, simply let down with a little more boiling water. This is a useful tip for all soups: Do not add too much liquid early in the cooking process if you over dilute; the soup is ruined , far safer to add water at he end.
Ingredients. (serves six)
100 ml good quality, new season’s Tuscan olive oil (treat yourself after arranging an overdraft.)
100 g cubed pancetta (unsmoked)
2 stalks celery coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled, topped and coarsely chopped
A pinch of chilli flakes
2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
1 bouquet garni (A branch of thyme, a branch of rosemary and two bay leaves tied together.)
500 g potatoes peeled and coarsely chopped
½ tsp black pepper and 1 tsp sea salt
1 kg vacuum packed cooked chestnuts, unwrapped and separated from each other
2 tbsp tomato concentrate
A kettle full of boiling water.
1/ heat half the olive oil in a large, heavy pan over a medium flame. As soon as the oil is warm add the pancetta and cook, stirring often until it turns translucent. Add the celery, onion, carrot, chilli and garlic. Continue stirring and cooking until the vegetables are collapsing and colouring. (about five minutes.)
2/ Add the Bouquet Garni, potatoes, salt, pepper, chestnuts and tomato paste. Continue the cooking for a further five minutes, stirring as much as possible. Then add enough boiling water to barely cover the solids.
3/ Return to a simmer and cook until the potatoes are tender. (15 minutes or so.)
4/ Allow to cool a little, retrieve the Bouquet Garni and puree in a liquidiser or with a stick blender. The soup should be very smooth.
5/ Check for salt and adjust if necessary. Serve with a drizzle of the remaining olive oil.