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.
Learn to Cook with Neven is out now published by Gill Books.
Chestnut & wild mushroom soup with smoked duck
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
Smoked salmon & cream cheese stacks
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