‘Are you feeling festive yet?’
December 8, 2008
asked my friend Shaun, for about the fourth time.
He adores Christmas. Yesterday late afternoon, when it was dark, he took me to see the crib in Trafalgar Square.
It was all lit up, a stylised kind of tableau. The characters stood at a distance from each other, gazing sombrely at the infant Jesus, who was far too huge for anyone to pick up and hug. In the size sense the whole thing was out of whack. Joseph, who was lying down on his side gazing at Jesus, was not much bigger than his son.
But it worked somehow. It looked a bit homemade and rough around the edges, but with something grave and beautiful about it.
There was a choir singing in the square, dressed in white. A vicar gave a reading after that, though I didn’t really follow it because I was so cold.
A crowd had gathered to listen and watch, standing under the huge Christmas tree with its silver lights. The tree’s donated to London every year, so it said on the placard, by the people of Oslo, in gratitude for our help during the Second World War.
‘Aren’t you feeling just a bit festive now?’ said Shaun. ‘Doesn’t it make you feel like a child again?
‘It’s bloody freezing.”
But damn it, I did feel rather Christmassy, I had to admit, at least to myself. And there was I hoping to grouch my way through the season.
And it’s been downhill all the way, as far as successful grouching goes, since then.
I woke up this morning thinking about roasted chestnuts. Then I looked up recipes for marrons glaces. Luckily they were too long-winded and complicated for me to try, at least today.
And then I made this, a chestnut soup. Suitable for any day from now until New Year. But particularly good I would have thought, for Boxing Day.
So pretty damn festive, as far as soups go.
Oh, and it’s also extremely good. And easy.
Let me say that again. This is actually one of the tastiest, and simplest, winter soups, that I have ever eaten.
Chestnut and Sweet Potato Soup, for 4
200g peeled and cooked chestnuts
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic, chopped
1 inch ginger, grated
2 sweet potatoes – about 600g – peeled and chopped into chunks
1 litre stock
2-3 tbs double cream
dash lemon juice
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and fry the onion, garlic, ginger, chestnuts and potato chunks for about 10 minutes.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the saucepan, and cook for about 10 more minutes until the potatoes are tender. Now add the lemon juice.
Take off the heat and blend the soup.
Stir in the cream and serve sprinkled with cayenne.