I love this chestnut and mushroom soup, particularly in the run-up to Christmas. It is just the most comforting of comfort foods.

You will find chestnuts in the vegetable section of most supermarkets at this time of year. I always buy a few extra packs and keep them in the freezer.

This is also a very good vegetarian soup if you leave out the smoked duck and use the vegetable stock.

Smoked salmon and brown bread is a classic combination. This smoked salmon and cream cheese recipe makes a nice light starter any time of the year.

With the horseradish and the mustard it has a bit of a kick. The radish gives it texture and a lovely crunch.

For the salmon, I am a fan of the Burren Smokehouse, a wonderful family business run by Birgitta and Peter Curtin. You could use Goatsbridge Trout instead too.

This starter is one you can make in the morning and keep in the fridge all day.

Happy cooking


Learn to Cook with Neven is out now published by Gill Books.


Chestnut & wild mushroom soup with smoked duck

Chestnut & wild mushroom soup with smoked duck. \ Food styling Janine Kennedy. Photography: Claire Nash

Serves four to eight

50g (2oz) dried mixed wild mushrooms

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

450g (1lb) peeled chestnuts (canned or vacuum-packed), chopped

100g (4oz) smoked duck, thinly sliced

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 tsp chopped fresh thyme

1.2 litres (2 pints) chicken or vegetable stock

200ml (7fl oz) cream

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Snipped fresh chives, to garnish

Fresh micro herbs, to garnish

  • 1 Put the dried wild mushrooms in a heatproof bowl and pour 400ml (14fl oz) of boiling water over to cover. Set aside for 20 minutes, until they have plumped up. Drain the mushrooms and gently squeeze dry, reserving the soaking liquid.
  • 2 Heat a large pan and add the oil. Add the chestnuts, half of the smoked duck, the onion and drained wild mushrooms and sweat gently for 10 minutes, until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Season to taste.
  • 3 Add the thyme to the pan with the reserved soaking liquid and the stock, stirring to combine. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and allow to heat through for 1 minute, then whizz with a hand-held blender until as smooth as possible.
  • 4 Season to taste, then blend again until light and foamy, tilting the pan to get the maximum effect.
  • 5 To serve, ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Garnish each one with the rest of the smoked duck, the chives and micro herbs.
  • Smoked salmon & cream cheese stacks

    Smoked salmon & cream cheese stacks. \ Food styling Janine Kennedy. Photography: Claire Nash

    Serves six to eight

    1 × 200g (7oz) tub of cream cheese

    2 tbsp finely diced cucumber (peeled and seeded)

    1 tbsp finely diced radish

    1 tbsp snipped fresh chives

    2 tsp horseradish sauce

    1 tsp prepared English mustard

    12-18 slices of brown soda bread (each about 3-5mm (1/8-¼in) thick)

    1 × 200g (7oz) packet of smoked salmon slices

    Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

    Lightly dressed mixed salad leaves, to garnish

    For the pickled red onion:

    4 tbsp rice wine vinegar

    2 tbsp caster sugar

    1 red onion, cut into fine wedges

  • 1 Put the cream cheese in a bowl and mix in the cucumber, radish, chives, horseradish sauce and mustard. Season to taste.
  • 2 Stamp or cut out rounds from the soda bread that are each about 6cm (2¼in) in diameter – you’ll need three for each stack. Repeat with the salmon.
  • 3 To make the pickled red onion, put the vinegar in a bowl and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Add the onion wedges and toss to coat. Cover with cling film and set aside for at least 10 minutes, or up to 8 hours is fine.
  • 4 To serve, place a round of soda bread on each plate. Top each one with 1 tbsp of cream cheese mixture, followed by a round of smoked salmon. Repeat until you have three layers in each stack. Add a dollop of the pickled red onion and garnish with the salad to serve.