Roast Chestnut soup and Pearl balls

So, now that Sinterklaas is come and gone….at least till December 5th, I can get on with my life. And my Thanksgiving offerings. With joy too…because I found my sausage. Yes, serious. I bought it at the Italian stall at the Eten & Drinken 2010…and left it there. And I was a tad bit upset. Well…the owner contacted me and I can have it back so you’ll hear all about it soon.

On to business and no dilly dallying….2 recipes for you – to love or not!

IMG_9692Roast Chestnut soup

The first time I made this was last christmas – I had a veggie friend coming round for lunch and I’d been desperately seeking a nice soup. And then the thought occured to me that making something with chestnuts wouldn’t be a bad idea at all. And so I googled and decided I would make it up….as I went along.


My first task was roasting the chestnuts and that I had to learn ’cause again, I didn’t grow up roasting chestnuts on an open fire.

And for this, I’ve devised  formula. See chestnuts generally have two sides and two ends – a pointy top end and a flat bottom. The sides are generally one flat and one rounded side, though I have seen nuts with both sides flat…and some that are more or less round. Most shops often sell them packed so its quite difficult to handpick them and select good from not-so-good.

Anyhow, I generally wash and dry them before I use them.

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Then I get out a chopping board and a sharp knife. I lay the flat side down and make a cross on the rounded side. This is to prevent the chestnuts from exploding. Why do I roast them? I love the flavour. I think that roasting accentuates the subtle, sweet  taste. And the beauty is that though you’ll have to make crosses on many (and peel them), you could also quite easily cook up a whole batch and store in the fridge or freezer.

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Then I place them on a tray and set them in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 200 degrees centigrade (400 degrees fahrenheit).


When they’re ready, the edges of the crosses curl backwards. Remove them from the oven and let them cool down for a couple of minutes before you peel them, being careful to rid them completely of the ‘tough’ internal skin. It’s amazing because I find that some batches are easier to peel than others. Anyhow, peel them and use as required.

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For this soup, you’ll need


1 teaspoon butter
1 medium onion, sliced
150 grams roasted chestnuts, chopped (about 12 nuts). You could also use vacuum-packed chestnuts but the flavour tends to be a bit ‘plasticcy’ and too sweet for me.
1 sage leave, rolled and ‘ragged (chiffonaded)’

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2 teaspoons of fresh lemon thyme leaves
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
600ml water
Salt and black pepper
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
Optional to cook: fresh chilies
Optional to serve: creme fraiche and 125g bacon bits, desalted and fried
Yield  – 2 servings

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How to

Heat butter in a large saucepan. When melted, add the onions and a pinch of salt and black pepper.

Cook on low – medium heat for about 5 minutes, till onions just take on colour

Add the chestnuts, sage and 1 teaspoon of lemon thyme leaves and stir for a couple of minutes

Then add water and let simmer for 15 – 20 minutes till the chestnuts are soft. Season well and blend with a handheld blender or in a food processor

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Put back on the heat and add the other teaspoon of lemon thyme.If the soup is too thick, add some water to thin. Add the carrots and let cook on low heat till carrots are soft.

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Serve, with slices of bread, a spoonful of creme fraiche (if using) and bacon bits.

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I love the creamy,luxurious feel of the soup and the fact that you don’t need any stock (ignore the cubes in my photo above) or cream to make it flavoursome.


And you could also use it to soup, sauce or bake it. I also think it would go well with the pearl balls below!

Rice balls

(Adapted from Chinese Cooking for Beginners by Huang Su-Huei)



300g Minced pork
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon shasoshing wine or dry sherry
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons coriander (cilantro) stalks, chopped
1 tablespoon sliced spring onions
1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
Dash of pepper
1 cup glutinous rice
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Yield: 15-18 balls

How to

Rinse the rice until the water runs clear and then soak for an hour. Remove, rinse and drain in a sieve. Spread the rice on a flat plate and pat with a paper towel to remove the excess water.

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Mix the pork with the water, wine, coriander, ginger, onions, salt and pepper and mix well to combine . Add the cornstarch and then mix. That’s your filling all done.

IMG_4369Using a teaspoon dipped in water, scoop up spoonfuls and roll into balls.

IMG_4378When your meat balls are ready, roll them in the rice till they are completely coated.

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Prepare a steamer by lining with a damp cloth. Place the pearl balls in, about 2 cm apart (my steaming basket is quite small so the space between was a bit less than advised)

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Steam over high heat for half and hour.

IMG_4388Remove and serve. I served mine with a passata made with ginger and coriander, though the chinese typically serve them with soy sauce. We had these for dinner and they were delicious. The meat filling was fragrant and tasty and the rice made it more than a snack. Saying that, the kids had 3 each and the hubby and I had 5. Next time, I’ll definitely make more. I also think they’d look great in a Bento!

IMG_4397I’ve dreamt about thought about making them with turkey mince but I haven’t been able to find any minced turkey in the shops and I don’t have a mincer so….here’s a reason to buy one. I guess I could chop up some turkey breast and spend an hour mincing it but….its just I keep tasting the sage and roast chestnuts….hmmm someday soon.


Have you made chestnut soup before? How do you like it.

And have you every had pearl balls??? Do you know that you can colour the rice with food colouring….pink for girls and blue for boys 🙂
Pearl Balls on Foodista
Roast Chestnut Soup on Foodista[wpurp-searchable-recipe]Roast Chestnut soup and Pearl balls – – – [/wpurp-searchable-recipe]


  1. Celia…I have pondered the same question cause it took me a while to shell the batch I used in the kumquat and chestnut pie…but the batch for this soup was so easy to shell.My friend thinks its a ripening process thing so the ‘riper’ the chestnuts are when they come off the tree, the easier to shell but….I don’t know.I am thankful though they’re not all year round:-)!

  2. Rice balls look wonderful, Oz! But chestnuts…grrrr…I have so much trouble peeling them! Have you figured out why some work and others don’t? I find you need to peel them when they’re blazing hot if you’re going to have any chance at all of getting the skin off (as opposed to the shell) and as soon as they cool down, it sticks. There has to be some trick, because you can buy shelled chestnuts..

  3. Thanks Jessica, Heather, Allie, Sarah, Kiran,’ll love it!

    Babara, when I roasted chestnuts a week ago, it was hard on my (unmanicured) nails…but when I did these this past weekend for the soup, the shells came off so easily….my friend thinks this set ripened on the tree and so shed their skin easily.

    Velva, you make my heart sing, and my lips curl up into a smile. Looking forward to those piccies….NYC here I come and for the sausage, I am so, so pleased!!!!!

  4. First, congratulations on getting your sausage returned.

    I have never eaten a roasted chestnut soup. Chestnuts are not common here in Florida and is more common in the northern U.S..
    Your version of this soup looks really nice. I know that I would enjoy it.

    I will send you an email a bit later this week with photos from NYC. I hope to inspire you one day to visit that amazing city in your mini-cooper. 🙂

  5. Thanks for dropping by my blog! Roast chestnut soup looks really lovely. I always shyed away from cooking with them cos it’s a liiitle bit troublesome with the steps that I have to go through. The rice balls looks delicious and within reach though! Yummy 🙂

  6. I’ve never tried either chestnuts or pearl balls. I’ll have to add them to my “must do” list.
    Thanks for visiting my little blog.

  7. Oh I love chestnuts! I use them in my stuffing, made ice cream with them once (served a dark chocolate sauce over it..yum) but I’ve never made soup with them. Sounds like a wonderful recipe. I have never had rice balls either.

    I long ago gave up putting the X on chestnuts, roasting and then removing the nut myself. My fingers got all scratched up and I lost any nails I ever had. I don’t use chestnuts that often so when I want them, I buy them bottled. You’d never know the difference, I swear.

  8. Both of these recipes sound delish! I’ll definately be trying the Chestnut soup this winter and the pearl balls look like a fun dinner idea. Thanks for the great ideas!

  9. They are really delish. My dream is to make them with minced turkey, chestnuts and sage but the beef and herbes de provence sounds good too..

  10. I never tried pearl balls but they sound delicious. Have you ever tried to make them with any other type of meat? I’m sure they would taste great too with beef and Provence herbs. I love your chestnut soup’s idea as well…never tried anything similar but I’m already convinced it has to be amazing 😉

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