Often scarce on the supermarket shelves (except at Christmas), Chestnuts can leave us a little perplexed with just what to do with them. But chestnuts have populated the British Isles since Roman times – and positively flourish in the South of England. We may associate them with Christmas, but chestnut season is here, and these delicious fruits deserve to be enjoyed!
A true seasonal delight, chestnuts are sweet, complex and richly flavoured. Their comforting starchy texture is wonderfully versatile for cooking. Whether sweet or savoury, chestnuts can be as wholesome or as decadent as you like. Mmm, it’s time to reintroduce the chestnut back into our culinary know-how…
How to cook
Chestnuts need cooking to become palatable. If you’ve cooked chestnuts before, then you can certainly attest to the rich, aromatic flavour cooking brings out. You can boil (approx. 30 minutes), microwave (approx. 3-4 minutes) or roast (approx. 30 minutes) – just be sure to score an X or line into the bottom of the shell to allow for peeling and to stop them from ‘exploding’! Cooking them in an open flame winter fire is, perhaps, one of the most loved ways to eat chestnuts in this country.
No matter how you’re cooking them, be sure to peel chestnuts when they’re still warm. When they’ve cooled, this can feel like the impossible task!
How to eat
There are a myriad of possibilities when it comes to enjoying chestnuts. Blitz in a food processor to make chestnut flour – a healthy, gluten-free alternative with a slightly nutty flavour. Puree to fill a dessert such as the renowned French Buche de Noel (chocolate log filled with chestnut puree – yum!) or as a mashed potato alternative. Throw into roasts for texture and taste, or, add to rustic soups and stews to infinitely enhance with an earthy, sweet flavour.
Decadent Chocolate-Chestnut Torte
We may associate chestnuts with Christmas and open fires, but chocolate and chestnut might just be the most heavenly combination. Haven’t tried it yet? Well, we’ve got a recipe that’ll make your mouth water…
Gluten-free, deeply chocolatey and enhanced with the flavour of pureed chestnuts and enticing walnut liqueur, this cake won’t fail to please.
Cream (as desired)
50g dark chocolate
Preheat the oven to 180C. In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites until firm (but not quite meringue texture). Melt the dark chocolate over a bowl of boiling water.
In a food processor, combine the butter, sugar and chestnut puree. Add in the egg yolks, liqueur and dark chocolate and combine.
In a mixing bowl, gradually fold through the whisked egg whites. Pour into a baking tin and cook for approx 40 minutes in the oven. Allow to cool before enjoying with whipped cream and chocolate shavings (and possibly an extra shot of walnut liqueur)!
Let us know in the comments how you like to enjoy this seasonal delicacy..
Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson Chocolate Chestnut Cake (gluten free)
Image 1: Chestnuts by Kristian Mollenborg/flikr (CC)
Image 2: Chestnuts by Simone Piunno/flickr (CC)
Image 3: dark chocolate torte by kylesteed/flickr (CC)