Chestnuts

 

Admittedly, chestnuts don’t seem to grow abundantly in sub-tropical Queensland.  However, when I saw them at the markets I really felt I needed to grab some and put them to use.  Their shiny brown skins brought back memories of my childhood, where I used to see them scattered on the ground in different places of my upbringing – lands with much cooler climates.  They were always on the ground in Tasmania and New Zealand.  Their green spiky outer coats could be unwrapped to find treasure.  I would collect them, thinking they must have a use, as they were so pretty.  Alas, my ignorance meant that they eventually got thrown in the garden.  I do remember seeing them roasted and sold in brown paper bags in Europe, but did not have the fortune of trying them.

 

It was not until I was an adult that I really got to try chestnuts as a food.  Living  in Maleny, I visited friends who were very excited to make chestnut bread, an italian bread made with chestnut flour.  For them it is a real treat for special occasions.  The taste was really unique, and it was a  real treat.  I think that was the first time I realised that you can actually cook with chestnuts.  I knew, somewhere in my mind, but it was still a bit of a revelation.

So, when I saw the chestnuts at the markets, I just had to have them.

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First of all, I made a chocolate chestnut cake.   Once again, so many recipes online, I think I just came up with my own adaptation.  Nigella Lawson had a good looking chocolate chestnut cake, as well as a recipe from the French Market website.  I hope the italians and and french do not mind that I have combined their recipes to fashion a chocolate chestnut cake.

The first obstacle was that both called for chestnut puree, which I did not have, so I had a go at making my own.  To be honest, I have no idea if it was a success, as I have never had chestnut puree.  The end result in the cake was probably the most delicious cake I have ever had.

Chestnut Puree

Ingredients

  • approximately 200-300g chestnuts
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1T brandy
  • water

Method

Take each chestnut and do an incision of a small cross in the top of each (this is to stop them from exploding).  Place in a pot and cover with water – bring to the boil.  Simmer for 20 minutes and leave to cool slightly in water.  They must be peeled whilst warm, or it is pretty tricky.  I let my cool too much and had to rewarm them.  Take each chestnut, cut them in half and scoop out the inner nut.  Place in another saucepan.  Add the sugar and brandy and enough water to just cover.   Bring to the boil again and let it cool slightly, stirring to ensure the sugar is dissolved.  Mash or blitz in a blender (I mashed mine).

There are an abundance of recipes that use chestnut puree, which I intend to try next year when the season comes around again.  The simplest is placing the puree in a glass with whipped cream on top, with a sprinkling of dark chocolate.

Yet, I digress.  Back to the most delicious chocolate cake I have ever had.  The thing that I think I loved so much about the cake, is that it had substance, and was extremely moist.  I prefer savoury foods as a rule, and the heartiness and the delicate flavours was a really special combination.

Chocolate Chestnut Cake

Ingredients

  • Chestnut puree
  • 200g dark chocolate
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g butter

Method

Preheat the oven to approximately 170 degrees celcius.

Melt together the butter and chocolate (I did this in the microwave). Stir through the chestnut puree.  Allow to cool.  Beat the eggs together and stir through the mixture.  Pour into a buttered cake tin and cook for approximately 40 minutes until there is a very very slight wobble in the middle.  When cool, dust with icing sugar.  Delicious with cream.

And finally, I wanted to try something savoury and see what roasted chestnuts tasted like.

 

Once again I did the little crosses and put the chestnuts on a tray.  I only had half a dozen left.  After 15 minutes in a hot oven, I took them out, and when they had cooled a little, I peeled them so that they were whole.  I then chopped a couple and dry roasted them in a pan- leaving two whole ones to go back in the oven. I made a simple risotto.  At the finish I stirred the chopped chestnuts through.  It was a lovely meal for two served with a whole chestnut on top of each with a sprinkling of parmesan and italian parsley.  Very delicate and sweet.

Looking forward to next season

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