You may have noticed that I’ve been receiving some slightly unusual produce recently. It seems that many early autumn fruits are somehow often overlooked in favour of more common ones like pears and apples and it comes as a bit of a surprise that such a wide variety of items are in-season this time of year.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love my pears and apples, but a bit of variation is good for the soul – and the belly! Speaking of variation I recently received a box of chestnuts and the game was on to work out what to do with them.
Now I’ll get to the recipe shortly but first allow me a moment of back patting… do you remember the Pear, Goat Cheese and Caramelized Onion Jam Sandwich I made a while back? It was my entry into the ‘what can you pair with a pear’ challenge put together by Australian Pears and who would have guessed it but I won first prize! Makes me hungry just thinking about it – hope you enjoy.
Ok, back to the task at hand, a box of chestnuts arrived at my door recently. Having never eaten a chestnut much less cooked with one, and as hearing ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire‘ being sung by road-side carolers during Christmas is about as close as I’ve ever come to even considering them as a food source, I was at a complete loss as to what make – much less how to start.
Luckily, enclosed was a little guide from Stefano Manfredi and Chestnuts Australia – complete with photos – on how to prepare the buggers. I’ve done a bit of my own here, just for you.
I decided that a loaf of Pumpkin Chestnut Bread was in order but of course I had to go further than just chopping some up and stirring through the batter – not to mention there were about 30 of them to work with! Having recently heard about and come across canisters of chestnut puree I figured it was a good place to start.
I cooked half the chestnuts by boiling them and the other half were roasted under the grill [broiler]. But first I had to prepare them – and ensure that nothing exploded… As a side note I think I prefer the roasted ones but there was not too much of a difference – if serving on their own the roasted ones are certainly more ascetically pleasing.
How to Cook Chestnuts
Score: With a small sharp knife score the chestnuts with a small ‘X’. Ignore my medium sized knife, the small pairing knife in our block went missing, probably swept into the bin with vegetable peelings one evening and I have neglected to get another as of yet.
You need to score the flat side of the chestnut – some have two flat sides, some have two rounded ones, just pick the flattest. You only want to just break through the hard outer shell so the steam can escape while cooking, a second inner layer will protect the meat and is easy to remove once cool.
To roast: place chestnuts – scored side up – on a tray under a medium high grill [broiler]. Roast for 15 minutes. The shells will turn black – this is fine as it is only the outer hull. After 15 minutes remove from oven and wrap in a clean tea towel to steam and cool for 5-10 minutes.
To boil: place scored chestnuts in boiling water and simmer on medium high for 15 minutes until tender – you can cut one in half to check if they are done. Drain and cool for 10 minutes until they can be handled, peel while warm.
Peel: Squeeze gently and peel outside hull off – it curls back from the scored edge. Peel inner skin and remove chestnut meat. Repeat. You can also cut the cooked chestnuts in half through the shell and scoop the meat out with a spoon.
Note: Chestnut meat is a creamy off-white colour. If you get a chestnut that is dark brown, it is bad – not burnt, get rid of it.
That’s it! Now you can eat the chestnuts as they are or add them to another dish. First I made Sweet Chestnut Puree. I have no idea if it is remotely related to the ‘correct’ way to make it, but it worked for me. It ultimately got mixed into Pumpkin Chestnut Bread but would go quite nicely on a cheese platter or as a spread on toast. Enjoy!
Sweet Chestnut Puree
- Heaping 1/2 c roasted or boiled chestnuts, chopped
- 2 Tbsp macadamia oil [or a neutral oil]
- 2 Tbsp rice syrup*
Puree all ingredients until smooth. Magic.
Makes a heaping 1/2 c of lightly sweetened puree. Use as a spread for toast, serve on a cheese platter – it is especially good with goats chevre, or make Pumpkin Chestnut Bread.
- You can use any kind of syrup or honey in place of the rice syrup but your puree will be sweeter.