My gorgeous friend, Valerie, introduced me to the wonder of chestnut soup. She grew up in the south of France where chestnuts feature widely in the cuisine. I had never tasted them, let alone attempted to cook with them. In some ways chestnuts remind me of the French - glossy and glamorous but a bit formidable! How on earth are you meant to turn such a solid looking nut into soup?

It's surprisingly easy, so long as you have a sharp knife to score a cross on the top of each nut. The first time I made this soup I made it too thick - more like pumpkin soup texture. It tastes far better as a thin soup.

The original recipe has 25 grams of butter swirled through at the end (in the best French tradition) but to me, it tastes just as delicious without the butter. I can already hear the cries of horror from my friend!

Chestnuts are in season for just a short time in autumn, so be quick to grab some before the season ends.


500g chestnuts

1 stalk celery

3 slices bread, crusts removed (I use a good sourdough)

2 cloves, ground

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 litres chicken stock

salt and pepper

Cut a cross on the top of each chestnut.

Boil 5 minutes in salted water. Drain.

Clean pot ready for soup.

While warm, peel and return to the same pot.

Dice celery and bread.

Add to pot with cloves, nutmeg and stock.

Bring to boil and simmer 30 minutes.

Blend, season (add 25g butter if you want a truly French soup).

Simmer 10 minutes.


Dice 2 or 3 extra slices of bread.

Pan fry in olive oil or butter to make croutons to sprinkle on top of soup.

I love to have a sweet treat in the pantry and to pop into the school lunch-box but I also want it to have some nutritional value. This week I’ve been into nut cakes – carrot cake with lots of walnuts and this moist orange almond cake. Nuts are rich in protein and healthy unsaturated fat - great for good health!

This cake is easy to make – but you do need a food processor. It’s very high in protein from all the eggs and almonds, and it’s gluten free.

(Some baking powders are not gluten free so check the pack if you are making this cake for someone who can’t have gluten. If you dust the cake with icing sugar, as in the photo, check it is gluten free too.)



2 oranges

6 eggs, lightly beaten

250 grams sugar

300 grams ground almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

Boil oranges in a little water for 1-2 hours.

Chop oranges roughly and let them cool down a bit. Then blend well in food processor with all the other ingredients. Line a large pan with grease-proof paper. Make sure the pan is large enough so the cake isn’t too thick or it will take too long to cook. Bake at 180C/350F for 1 hour – or perhaps a bit longer.

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