I spend months eagerly planning my menu for Christmas day.

I love Christmas. It truly is the most magical time of the year. I love it not for religious reasons (being an atheist), nor for the opportunity to spend time with family (with The Thirsty Manc and I choosing to spend the last few years alone ), but for the copious amounts of food and booze I can scoff.

Over the last few years I’ve discovered some lovely recipes to enjoy on the big day,  including a delicious white onion soup with scallops and chorizo,  and this wonderfully decadent leek, fennel and walnut soup, topped with crispy pancetta and maple syrup.

Don’t be tempted to leave out the maple syrup, it really makes it.

This soup is for life, not just for Christmas.


  • A good knob of butter
  • 3 leeks, white and light green parts chopped (discard the green tops)
  • 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves minced
  • 1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped (reserve a few fronds for garnish – I forgot to do this)
  • 1 medium apple, peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • Maple syrup
  • Brandy
  • A little chopped bacon or pancetta fried (remove for veggie version).


Heat the butter in a large soup pan over a medium heat.

Add the leeks and thyme and sauté until soft.

Add the chopped fennel and apples and give everything a good stir.

Add the turmeric and stir to coat the vegetables evenly.

Add a good slug of brandy.

Sauté the vegetables until the fennel starts to soften (about another five minutes).

Add 80% of the walnuts and stir again.

Season with salt and pepper, add the stock and bring to a boil.

Simmer until the fruit and veg are very soft (about 15 minutes).

Remove from the heat and blend the soup in batches until totally smooth.

Return the soup to the pan and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

Bring to the boil and serve hot with drizzles of maple syrup, crispy pancetta, the reserved fennel fronds and more toasted walnuts.