Harry presents: (the first in a series)

I was walking up Spadina St, which is where much of Chinatown is in Toronto, looking for bits for a ‘thank you’ dinner party for my Canadian hosts.

Many of the grocers have baskets of produce out the front and one shop owner had to periodically wipe the snow off piles fruit and veg. It was all pleasingly charming and disorientating (no pun intended).

Anyway, one of these baskets was full of small, dried, white figs of the same type that I had discovered back home in Sydney earlier that year. They come from Iran and are often labelled as “Iranian figs”.

I bought a bag and popped one in my mouth for the walk home which, when I almost broke a tooth, was how I discovered I’d actually bought several handfuls of dried chestnut kernels.

Taking them back with me to Halifax I sought a recipe. And there in my sister-in-law’s collection was a doozy.

Chestnut and Mushroom, well, technically a soup

If using whole chestnuts: make a cut in each shell with a sharp knife sufficient to let water in. Soak the chestnuts overnight in water.

Find three or more albums you haven’t listened to in a while and shell the chestnuts. Picking all the bits of skin off is a bitch as chestnuts are convoluted like miniature brains and it takes hours. It helps if you treat this as an exercise in Zen. Do not use Aphex Twin as you might shudder awake at 4am, cold and alone and feeling slightly foolish.

Often I do the shelling/skinning the night before the dinner party simply because at the end I am a broken man only spurred on this ridiculous venture by the fluttering flag on a distant hilltop that is the knowledge that many forest-nymph babes are vegetarian and are impressed by men who cook. Mmmmm, Vegetarian forest-nymph babes.

Go to bed and sleep, as the French say, “on your crutch”.

Take one large onion. Chop it middling finely.
Treat one large potato for every two people the same.
Cook both with a nub of butter in a saucepan.
When the potato is soft throw in the chestnuts and cook them until they soften and deepen in colour. How many chestnuts? Enough chestnuts.

At the same time half-cook the bunch of wood mushrooms that you chopped up earlier. How many wood mushrooms? Enough wood mushrooms. I use Swiss browns because they seem more rustic and I am pretentious.
Chuck everything into a blender.

Everything is now (a) half cooked, and (b) blended.
Throw it all into the saucepan again and reduce it over low flame. This is when you add herbs and spices. I usually just add salt, pepper and one random Italian herb.
Reduce ’til it is thick and gluggy like porridge. Perhaps a half hour.

Serve.

Receive accolades humbly.

It also works well as a sauce for meats such as pork. In which case serve dressed as a von Trapp, and with a good dark beer.

[Zoe says: yes, that's right, you don't put any liquid in. When I asked Harry if he was sure he said: "It is very thick. hence porridge. And hence "technically" a soup." See how I love you? I made a dill of myself so you don't have to.]

Harry’s series continues here.

13 comments ↓

#1 ampersand duck on 05.09.08 at 1:49 pm

mmmm… dill.

#2 ampersand duck on 05.09.08 at 1:51 pm

And technical quibble — can you really call something a ‘one-dish meal’ if you have to take it out and plop it in a blender? I thought the whole idea of the ‘one-dish’ thingy was the alluring lack of washing up?

Great recipe, BTW.

#3 Zoe on 05.09.08 at 2:05 pm

Fair point, Duck. The second one, that is! Will un-tag, so as not to piss off folks further.

#4 FDB on 05.09.08 at 2:40 pm

I dunno. Maybe a blender with bowl counts as a dish, but what about a bamix-y thing? Just run it under the tap for a sec when you’re done – that ain’t dishes!

And I should know – in my second straight month of doing all the dishes (and other housework) due to Lady Friend breaking a wrist.

Oh, and wonderful recipe. Methinks any greasy gamey meat would love a bit of this slopped on, but that’s just the way I think. I’m sure the soup is fine too.

#5 ampersand duck on 05.09.08 at 2:46 pm

Yeah, ‘one-dish’ works with a bamix-thingy. If you have one. I find them quite scary :)

[Proof from Zoe:

ooh!  scary!

#6 Fyodor on 05.09.08 at 2:53 pm

You should substitute cassava for the potato and call it nymphomanioc soup.

#7 Harry presents his drunken figs | Progressive Dinner Party on 06.09.08 at 2:57 pm

[...] ← Harry presents: (the first in a series) [...]

#8 harry on 07.09.08 at 12:28 pm

“nymphomanioc soup”

You are a genius.

#9 Thermomixer on 08.09.08 at 3:47 pm

It would be a one-pot dish in the Thermomix, and strangely enough I had just been searching for a chestnut and mushroom dish for people the other side of the equator. There is a chestnut and mushroom risotto and this sounds easier – may I adapt and acknowledge Harry.

#10 Harry presents: Vivid Dream Lasagne | Progressive Dinner Party on 08.09.08 at 8:00 pm

[...] post is part three of a series which begins here and continues [...]

#11 Harry presents: Impressing the Hot Interior Designer Marinara | Progressive Dinner Party on 09.09.08 at 12:50 pm

[...] post is the final in a series which begins here and continues here and [...]

#12 harry on 09.09.08 at 5:14 pm

“There is a chestnut and mushroom risotto and this sounds easier – may I adapt and acknowledge Harry.”
# Sure. Or you could just steal like I did….

“Bloggers have also tried reproducing the eggs with mixed success.”
# ha! ‘mixed success’. On a Thermomixer blog.

#13 housekeeping | Progressive Dinner Party on 11.09.08 at 2:31 pm

[...] done a bit of fiddling about with the site while Harry’s been conducting his one man “Shock and Awe” campaign. (Yes, that’s what he called [...]

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