red lentil and chestnut soup

As is the case with our star cheesecakes, we don't like to wear out a good recipe like top 40 radio overplay of a hit single, so we are driven to try new variations of winning themes. This one is a continuation story, following up the excess fall purchase of recipe ready chestnuts motivated by our love for our very own version of chestnut soup. Which we had recently repeated a number of times. So when Martha Stewart described how to make a lentil and chestnut soup on Food TV, bob's radar immediately tuned in, especially since the lentils were red, and red lentil soup, a joint Turkish-Armenian tradition, is another favorite soup in the household. While remembering the key ingredients, bob felt no need to write down the quantities since all the Food TV recipes are on-line. Where dear Martha turns out to be an exception.

The link to the recipe is there at the Food TV show site for that program, but no recipe. And although later Martha programs prove to actually have recipes attached to the links, this one never comes up in the recipe finder. So bob googles it and immediately comes up with a Nigella Bites hit lentil and chestnut soup at the Food TV Canada website, copyrighted 4 years earlier from her book How To Eat, and Martha's recipe seems exactly the same(!), modulo bob's somewhat flawed memory skills. By this time Nigella Lawson was a familiar face—ani is a big style fan, so Nigella's sensual cooking show on Style TV was a favorite surfing parking spot for both ani and bob. Some reviews suggest she might even unseat queen Martha from her reign.


1 small onion
1/2 leek
1 carrot
1 stick celery
1 tbsp olive oil
1 c = 1/2 lb  = 225 g red lentils
9 c veggie broth
1/2 lb  = 225 g cooked chestnuts (just over half a 400g jar)
salt and pepper to taste
1 c optional light cream or lowfat milk in the final warming phase
optional dollops of plain nonfat yogurt, to serve


  1. Clean the veggies and food process them together till finely chopped.
  2. Sauté them in olive oil until softened.
  3. Add the lentils and stir to mix  with the veggies and oil, then add the veggie broth (boiling water plus instant veggie broth paste/cubes/powder).
  4. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 40 minutes till the lentils are very soft (they should disintegrate).
  5. Meanwhile, food process the chestnuts finely.
  6. When the lentils are ready, add the chestnut crumbs and simmer another 20 minutes or so.
  7. Puree with your hand blender, adding water if necessary to thin it to taste.
  8. Before serving an optional cup of light cream blended in to the soup and heated through adds extra flavor.
  9. Accompany each serving with freshly ground black pepper and optional dollops of plain nonfat yogurt and an optional sprinkling with parsley.


  1. Nigella believes in cream. We prefer yogurt since it is our normal Armenian-Lebanese influenced choice of accompanying sauce for a wide range of stuff, and it is more healthy as well.
  2. We still had one bag of frozen chestnuts from Trader Joe's left to use up. bob stuck ani with the shell removal. She has a lot of experience with shelling nuts and seeds. A family tradition. The 400g of imported roasted Italian chestnuts had a yield of 1 1/3 c crumbs when food processed, a bit more than called for, but only half what we used for our chestnut soup so we dumped it all in. Turns out the frozen chestnuts are a year-round product after all. Unlike the convenient bottled item.
  3. We also had to jack up the water (veggie broth) content from Nigella's 6 c to 8 c during the chestnut simmering stage, with the expectation of adding probably another 2 c in the reheating phase when we actually served it. In fact influenced by our recent cream soup experience, we added 1 c water and 1 c light cream blended in for an extra kick. Salt and pepper to taste was another correction, and although we tried the chopped parsley sprinkled on top of each serving with the dollops of yogurt, it did not really add to the taste and only seemed to serve as a garnish color prop. Who needs it. And since we hit it with the cream, the yogurt can be dispensed with as well. But you decide. Here's the garnished version: illustration.
  4. So what's the verdict? Another winner.
rlntchsp.htm: 16-aug-2006 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]