Thursday, December 16, 2010

Chestnut Soup

I love soups. Soup was a regular item on the dinning table when I was young. And I miss drinking soups. Hence, whenever it starts to get cold, especially on snowy days, I will want to have a bowl of soup for dinner.

Red dates, a very common herb used in soups.
But today, the star of this evening's soup is not red dates, but dried Chestnuts (栗子). My mom had sent me a bag of dried chestnuts, and it had been sitting in the fridge for the longest time.

Today is a good day for soups. The sun is hiding behind clouds, and it is going to snow later in the evening. I don't want to do the usual soups. A goggle search brought me to Culinarytonicsoup. I was so excited when I saw this blog! It has a collection of the recipes from the old Fenying's blog! It was difficult to read, as the recipes were not classified. I was lucky to spot the recipe for the Chestnut soup halfway down the page =D

Dried Chestnuts, 栗子 1.5 cups
Dried Lotus Seeds, 莲子 1 packet (about 120g)
Red dates, 红枣 30 pcs
Spareribs/pork 1 pound
Water 2 litres

  • Fill a pot with 2 litres of water.
  • Wash the chestnuts and lotus seeds thoroughly.
  • Note that the chestnuts already have their skins removed.
  • Add the chestnuts and lotus seeds to the pot of water.
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Lower heat and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.
  • Turn off heat and let the ingredients soak in the warm water for about an hour or longer. The idea is to soften the chestnuts and lotus seeds so that they cook faster and release their sweetness when cooking with the meat later.
  • Blanch the spareribs in boiling water.
  • Rinse with cold water.
  • Wash the red dates thoroughly. My red dates are really small, so use less if your red dates are bigger.
  • Add the spareribs and red dates into the pot with chestnuts and lotus seeds.
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Lower heat and let it simmer for a hour and a half.
  • Add salt to taste if need, and serve the soup warm.

The lotus seeds were all broken up into very small pieces when the soup was cooked. The boys don't like ingredients in their soup. I would usually strain the soup. If the soup is too oily because of the fatty pork, then leave the soup in the fridge after straining it. The oil will solidfy, making it easier to remove when you take the soup out from the fridge much later.

I used 2 litres of water instead of the usual 1.2 litres. Actually, I started with 1.2 litres of water. But as the dried chestnuts and lotus seeds boiled in the water, I realised they absorbed quite a bit of water in order to soften. After adding the spareribs, and cooking for a while, I decided to take the risk of adding more water. When you are cooking soups, it is not advisable to add water midway while cooking as it dilutes the soup. I was glad I took the risk. The extra water added covered the spareribs, and the soup still turned out very sweet when cooked! I didn't need to add any salt to the soup. However, after straining the soup, I felt that it was a waste to throw away the chestnuts and lotus seeds. They tasted sweet! The strained soup was sitting in one small pot with the meat, while the chestnuts, lotus seeds and red dates lonely sat in the large empty soup pot. Hence, I added water to the chestnuts, lotus seeds and red dates left in the pot. Brought the pot of extra water to a boil and let it simmer for another half an hour.

The second pot is now cooking over the stove, and if it is sweet after an hour of simmering, I will probably add it to the small pot of strained soup.

Lesson learnt when dealing with chestnuts ... add more water! Can't really say how much water to add, as it really depends on how many chestnuts you have in the pot. I had both chestnuts and lotus seeds, so I would need more water when cooking this soup.

The next time I cook this, I will probably use just 1 cup of chestnuts. Will skip the lotus seeds if I don't have any. And, use 2 litres of water.

This soup is not the clear type of soup. It's a little milky. If you dislike milky soup, then this is not your kind of soup. My boys don't really fancy milky-looking soup. Let's hope they will still drink it since it's sweet =)

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