31 January 2010

Maltese Chocolate Chestnut Soup, Imbuljuta

As thunder rumbled across the island last night, rain pounding and the flashes of lightening catching us off guard, we lit candles and enjoyed a cosy evening in. Thankful for out little gas heater, and warming Maltese wine (its around 50 F, 10 C inside these days) and I can't tell you how much I miss central heating. I decided to finally try making imbuljuta which is a traditional chocolate and chestnut soup (sweet).

I had been asking my mother in law for weeks to let me watch her next time she made it and at last she did. I must explain that this soup has the most wonderful smell, chestnuts, chocolate, cloves and tangerine peel, and because the soup needs to cook slowly for nearly an hour it has a chance to drift seductively through the house. I was told that it often was made on Christmas eve, so that when people returned from midnight mass they would be warmed by it. I was also told that in olden days when you went to give  a present to a new baby during the winter months they would often serve you this soup as a sign of gratitude, accompanied by small almond cookies.
Having experienced now two winters here in Malta I can see how one would appreciate coming in from the rain to be warmed by a bowl of this. The houses are mostly made of stone here, traditionally a kind of local pale yellow sandstone, which means they keep very cool in the hot summers but the stones ability to absorb the moisture from the air makes the wet days of winter feel extremely cold inside.
My mother in law fondly recounted that when she was a child on especially cold days her mother would make this soup while the house was taking their afternon naps (all seven children), the memory of what it was like to be woken by its smells still very vivid. The joy of coming down together to sit crowded in the kitchen spooning up chestnuts from steaming bowls of chocolate.
The recipe, should you want to try it.

Imbuljuta (Chocolate Chestnut Soup)
500 grams dried chestnuts (shells removed). Be sure to soak the chestnuts for 8 hours to overnight first.
5 Tbs dark unsweetened cocoa
5 Tbs sugar (to taste really, this version is not overly sweet).
1 whole tangerine peel
5-6 whole cloves
1/2 cinnamon stick (remove after 20 min of cooking)
enough water to cover the chestnuts

Place all ingredients in pot and let slowly cook till chestnuts are very tender, (about an hour). I strayed form tradition (I do not like the texture of the wet chestnuts so much) and after removing the tangerine peel and cinnamon stick, I blended the soup, so it became a thick dark pudding like texture. I think if it is very thick you could easily serve it with a dallop of fresh cream, if you want to cut the intensity.  Serve hot with a spoon.


  1. oh! delicious! and your friday post is just as sweet! have a wonderful week. Kenza.

  2. Sounds brilliant. Lovely blog writings and photos. I have a huge chestnut tree right outside my door. Strangely, I had a dream LAST NIGHT wherein I was eating the nuts that had been soften by a soaking rain! I think the universe is telling me to try this recipe. I do sandwiches, nothing serious, but lots of fun. I am now following you. Keri (a.k.a. Sam)

  3. Yeah! I have to try this one! (great example for our recipe book!) Thanks for the letter, write you one tomorrow. Big kiss

  4. Yum! Can't wait to visit/move to Malta to experience all the wonderful (not just food) things you write about. Thank you for sharing and your lovely family.

  5. Love the stories, past and present, that go with this soup. Would be wonderful to come in from skating on the lake and smell this.

  6. That sounds like my kind of winter warmer!! (and I love the fact that it's not too sweet!!)

    C x

  7. That would be a smell I would liked to be awakened with, too.

    Thank you for sharing the tradition and I wish you warmer days to come very soon.

  8. Sounds fabulous. I am going to keep this recipe for next year when we pick chestnuts with our Italian friends. Perfect way to warm up and I love the family connection with your mother-in-law's childhood memories.

  9. Heaven! I grew up a great marron glacé lover, and this sounds delirious to me.

  10. Don't know why but I never liked imbuljuta. One reason could be because mum used to cook the chestnuts until they practically disintegrated, thus making me choke whenever I tried to drink it. However the smell is heavenly.

  11. What a beautiful blog with really gorgeous pictures!

  12. I remember my mom making this imbuljuta on Christmas eve so we can enjoy it after the Midnight Mass....


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