IT'S THE WEEKEND!
Like many of you, I just love the month of December, with the run up to the festivities. Amongst the various carol concerts, trips to London and pre Christmas get togethers with family and friends, my favourite time is spent quietly getting the house ready for Christmas. Usually our two large trees are up and decorated by the beginning of advent, but this year I am resisting a little longer, with maybe the first being done this week, and the second shall wait until next weekend as I have promised our daughter that we shall wait until she comes to stay for a couple of days so that she can still enjoy the tradition of the tree decorating.....so lovely that in her early twenties, that novelty hasn't disappeared!
I am however, enjoying bringing out various smaller decorations, fairy lights and extra candles and filling the house with my favourite paperwhite narcissi and white hyacinth bulbs....always so fresh in amongst the traditional sparkle.
I also love to plan a few new recipes for the coming weeks......this one caught my eye in the forthcoming January issue of 'House and Garden' magazine. A delicious looking Jerusalem Artichoke soup, with Pancetta and Chestnuts.....perfect for this time of year, whether a relaxed kitchen supper or for over Christmas or the New Year celebrations!
'Jerusalem Artichoke Soup with Pencetta and Chestnuts'
800g Jerusalem artichokes
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
800 ml chicken stock
Generous grating of nutmeg
250ml double cream, plus extra if needed
8 cooked, peeled chestnuts (vacuum packed or in a jar), roughly chopped
Peel the artichokes and cut them into chunks, roughly 1cm square. As you cut them, immediately drop them in a bowl of water to which you have added the lemon juice, to stop them discolouring.
Melt 40g of the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat and add the onion. Add 2 tablespoons water, cover and sweat for 10 minutes, then add the drained artichokes, some seasoning and a splash more water. Cover and sweat for 15 minutes more. Check every so often to make sure the vegetables are not burning - you may need to add another splash of water.
Add the stock, nutmeg and cream and more seasoning if necessary. Cook for another 10 minutes or so. Leave to cool, then purée in batches in a blender - you want to end up with a completely smooth mixture. If it's not smooth enough after blending, push it through a sieve, which will produce a better texture.
Just before serving, fry the pancetta in its own fat until golden all over. Quickly melt the remaining 10g butter in a small frying pan and sauté the chestnuts until glossy. Spoon a little of the pancetta and chestnuts over each serving.