Alpujarran chestnut soup

26 September 2019

Food writer Fiona Dunlop shares a thick, nourishing chestnut soup recipe from popular Andalusian restaurant Chikito, Granada.

Cooking time

1 1/2 hours

Serves

4



Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 1 large spring onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 small plum tomato, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 clove
  • 1 teaspoon saffron
  • 1 dried red pepper or 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground anise or ground fennel
  • Salt
  • Scant ½ cup (100 ml) white wine
  • 1½ cups (9 oz/250 g) peeled dried chestnuts, soaked in water overnight
  • ¾ cup (5½ oz/150 g) dried chickpeas, soaked in water overnight, drained
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ¾ oz (25 g) pork, diced
  • 2 large leaves (3½ oz/100 g) chard, sliced
  • 1 cup (3½ oz/100 g) diced pumpkin
  • ½ cup (2¾ oz/75 g) diced potatoes
  • 1¾ oz (50 g) chicken breast, sliced

Method

Don’t be put off by the daunting list of ingredients—they make a thick, hearty soup, full of goodness and mountain flavors, with chestnuts taking center stage. A bonus is its palette of autumnal colors. It was developed by Chikito’s sous-chef, José Fernandez, who hails from the Alpujarras south of Granada. You can simplify matters by using chicken breast only, skipping the red pepper or scallion, and replacing the chard with any leafy vegetable you have on hand. You will need to soak the chestnuts and chickpeas overnight.

In a saucepan, heat a little olive oil over medium heat, then sauté the carrot, scallion, red pepper, tomato, hazelnuts, and garlic for about 8 minutes, stirring. Stir in the dried pepper, paprika, turmeric, anise or fennel, and wine, and cook for a further 2 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and allow to cool briefly. Transfer to a food processor and process to a purée.

Meanwhile, remove any remaining skin from the soaked chestnuts. Drain well and simmer in water until tender, about 45 minutes.

In another pan, combine the chickpeas, bay leaf, pork, and paprika and add enough water to cover them by 2 inches (5 cm). Bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 1 hour. Stir in the puréed sauce, chard, pumpkin, potato, and chicken. Continue to simmer until everything is tender, about 20 minutes more.

Finally, add the chestnuts with enough of their cooking water to create a thick, textured soup.

Add salt and pepper to taste and serve hot.

About restaurante Chikito

Strategically positioned on a downtown corner, the illustrious Chikito is a magnet for the city’s bourgeoisie. Back in 1910, as the Café Alameda, this watering hole became known as El Rinconcillo (“the little corner”) and was the meeting place for a dazzling group of artists and intellectuals. Among them were the musician, Manuel De Falla and the ill-fated poet, Federico García Lorca who, in 1936, was dragged out of the café by Franco’s fascist troops to be summarily executed. Appropriately, a life-size statue of him now sits in the dining room corner.

A lively tapas bar at the entrance leads to this inner sanctum plastered in celebrity photos (ranging eclectically from the astronaut John Glenn to the actor Benicio del Toro, to writer José Saramago, and footballer Diego Maradona) and some fine Andalusian ceramics.

Chikito is efficiently managed by brothers Diego and Daniel Oruezabal, who alternate as front of house. “Our father opened the restaurant in 1976,” Diego tells me. “And all through our early lives we came to help out in the kitchen, so it really is second nature for us.” Heading the kitchen is the cheerful chef, Juan Carlos Exposito, who contributes to the sense of a large family working together— from kitchen saucepans to restaurant service. Their plato estrella (star dish) is the braised bull’s tail—well worth imitating using oxtail.

Andaluz: A Food Journey Through Southern Spain by Fiona Dunlop is out now, published by Interlink Books

Andaluz
 

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