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Chestnut soup can come in a few different forms, but it is most often a creamy dish that is made with cooked chestnuts, broth and cream flavored with vegetables, mushrooms and herbs. Chestnuts are common in temperate northern hemisphere regions around the globe, so many cultures have their own types of chestnut soup. They are tree nuts that are commonly eaten roasted or boiled in addition to their use in soup.
Most chestnut soup recipes call for mushrooms, but not all of them. Other flavors commonly used in this soup include butternut squash, parsnip and lentils. Usually, vegetables are roasted or lightly pan-fried before they are added to the cooking chestnut broth base. This dish is often thickened with flour or corn starch. Some thinner chestnut soups are not thickened.
Traditionally, these soups are made in a base of stock or broth, most often chicken. Vegetarian versions of chestnut soup are made with vegetable broth. To prepare chestnut soup as a vegan dish, cooks can substitute coconut milk or soy milk for the cream.
When preparing chestnuts for this soup, nuts in shells should be sliced in half to expose the chestnut flesh, which can be scooped out. This is the easiest way to cleanly remove the shell from the chestnut. To remove the nut whole from the shell, the cook should cut a crisscross on the shell to easily remove the whole nut.
In any soup made from chestnuts, the chestnuts need to be cooked before they are added to the soup. For this dish, it is easiest to use the type of chestnuts that come precooked from a jar or can. Cooks working with fresh chestnuts usually roast them before including them in the soup to add more depth to their flavor. These nuts are often roasted in a shell that has been cut in a crisscross pattern. Peeled chestnuts can also be boiled.
Though chestnut soup can be eaten year-round, in Western culture, this soup is often considered to be a warm recipe for the holidays. When preparing chestnut soup, it is important to avoid using the water chestnut, which is not a nut, but a vegetable that grows in marsh mud. The chestnuts used in this type of soup are tree nuts that come from fruit-bearing trees in the beech family. These chestnut-giving trees are members of the Castanea family.