Pick me | Chestnuts

24 November 2016

The world is officially on countdown to Christmas. The luminous sweet treats of Halloween are over and November heralds the start of jingling bells. Take a walk in any public park or forest and you with find clusters of chestnuts that have fallen to the ground. The long sharp green ‘sacks’ or ‘burrs’ usually hold about four shiny chestnuts. Unlike other nuts, chestnuts have a high starch and water content but low protein and fat levels.

Dried chestnuts are great in soups or long cooked stews, as their smoky flavour gets absorbed into the stock. They add a great sweetness to earthier tones where you might natural use honey or a sweetener; think parsnip, pork belly etc. If we were eating chestnuts for breakfast lunch and dinner though, this would be our feast:

Starter

Scallops with hazelnut & chestnut crumb

& a sorrel oil drizzle

Main course

Venison loin & mini Wellington with celeriac & chestnut purée,

crispy kale & thyme potato layers

Dessert

Pear mille-feuille with burnt honey cream

& chestnut crumble

The chestnut-ucation

  1. Chestnuts have a great starch profile for beer. If you chemically compare them to malted barley, you will find surprising similarities. Chestnut beer is very popular in France.
  2. Once dried, chestnut loses most of its water as its calorific value increases.
  3. The largest and oldest known chestnut tree in the world is called Hundred Horse Chestnut and is located in Sant’Alfio on the eastern slope of Mount Etna.
  4. Marron glacés are made using chestnuts picked in autumn, which are then candied in sugar syrup and glazed. The texture is like that of a prune or dried apricot, with a slightly sweet flavour and mild nuttiness similar to sweet potatoes.
  5. An old Corsican wedding tradition is to prepare 22 different chestnut dishes and serve them on the day of the wedding.
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