Wine & Food Killers: Lentil, Cavolo Nero, Chestnut and Chorizo Soup with Mersel Red Velvet 2022

Claire Bullen Lebanon Red wine

2024 is the year of soup. Don’t just take my word for it; according to the New York Times, soup is being hailed as one of the year’s top nine food trends.

NYT food correspondent Kim Severson says, “For cooks, it’s a low-risk, forgiving way to experiment with new flavours and ingredients. Soup uses up vegetables that might otherwise get tossed… And soup is yet one more way to soothe ourselves.”

It’s funny to think of humble, often-overlooked soup as anything new and revelatory, but I can see where the praise is coming from. I’ve felt moved to cook soups and stews pretty much weekly since cold weather first descended in October, from chicken double-stock to pumpkin and chipotle chilli and Persian lamb and quince stew.

My latest entry in the canon is this brothy, veggie-laden number, infused with a tinge of New Year’s wishes and – although the New York Times has also called 2024 “the year of the vegetable” – chorizo. (That said, there are a great range of vegetarian chorizos on the market to choose from if you’re all-in on Veganuary this year).

Something of a hybrid between Spanish sopa de castañas (chestnut and chorizo soup) and Portuguese caldo verde (a brothy soup made green with kale and featuring, yes, chouriço), this soup also contains coin-shaped green or brown lentils, eaten to encourage prosperity in the New Year. Hearty and warming, brothy and fragrant, humming with spice and sweet with chestnuts, it’s everything I want my January meals to be.

And speaking of: While you don’t need an alcoholic accompaniment to this dish, if you’re embarking on a well-moistened start to the year, I’d strongly recommend enjoying Mersel’s Red Velvet 2022 on the side. (As a Champagne-loving friend recently quipped, she’s more about Brut January than Dry January; I can relate.) Hailing from Lebanon and made from 100% cinsault grapes which underwent carbonic maceration, this is a cheerful and bright wine with boisterous red-fruit character. But with its green and stemmy notes as well, the wine has enough complexity to ensure it’s a good match with the soup.

Vegetables and chorizo, broth and wine – my January 2024 is going to be all about balance and moderation, and just the right amount of indulgence.

Lentil, Cavolo Nero, Chestnut and Chorizo Soup
Serves 8-10

560g spicy cooking chorizo (I used Brindisa’s), sliced into ¼-inch-thick coins
2 large onions, finely diced
3-4 large carrots, peeled and finely diced
6 stalks celery, finely diced (try to pick celery with leaves, which you can use to garnish)
5-6 cloves garlic, minced
Fine sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon cumin
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
Small bunch fresh thyme, tied into a bouquet garni
400g cavolo nero, leaves stripped from tough stalks and roughly chopped
250g green or brown lentils
360g cooked chestnuts, roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon

1. Place a Dutch oven, or other very large, lidded pan, over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the chorizo. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chorizo is starting to brown and has released its vivid orange fat and juices, approximately 5 minutes. (If you’re using vegetarian chorizo, you may wish to sauté it in a bit of olive oil, as it may have less fat content.)

2. Add the onions, carrots and celery. Cook, stirring until evenly coated in the chorizo fat, for approximately 6-8 minutes, or until softened and the onions are translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes more, or until it has lost its raw smell.

3. Season generously with salt and pepper. Add the remaining spices and mix through. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until fragrant and well-incorporated.

4. Next, add the stock, alongside the thyme bouquet garni, cavolo nero, lentils and chestnuts. Raise heat to high to bring to a boil; then turn all the way down to a simmer. Add the sherry vinegar and mix through. Partly cover with the lid and cook for roughly 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils are completely cooked through. Stir every 10 minutes or so while the soup cooks (you may also want to skim fat from the top, if the chorizo has released a great deal).

5. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning if needed. Just before serving, turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and mix through. Divide between bowls and garnish with the fresh celery leaves.

Claire M Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound and all-around lover of tasty things. You can follow her at @clairembullen. For more recipes like this, sign up to our Natural Wine Killers wine subscription - you'll receive Claire's recipe and food pairings plus expert tasting notes for three amazing wines like this one every month.


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