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Review and recipe: Chestnuts - first encounters

Took them from that pesky "Ice Age" squirrel, so he could not destroy the world!

Going nuts

I've never tried chestnuts before, although they are not a rarity here, especially at this time of year. And to be honest, I was never curious about them - growing up, those were my slingshot munitions and nothing more, due to the abundance of chestnut trees in my area. Apparently those weren't the edible kind, so when I was shopping today, I bought the edible ones.

They were (mostly) ripe, with a nice, creamy texture and somewhat sweet taste. It's what I would call delicious without trying too hard, because I haven't put anything to flavour them whatsoever. They are just naturally enticing to have one more, and one more, and just one more . . and then you've eaten half a kilo without realising. But you can't eat them raw - you have to roast them.

In a nutshell

I phoned my aunt and asked her how to cook those in the simplest way possible. She instructed me to have them soak in water for 1-2 hours, then to cut the pointy end out, to make two shallow cuts on both sides and to put them straight into the oven with nothing else to add. The oven was preheated to 200 degrees Celsius and the roasting time should've ended around the 20-25 minutes mark.

The three stages of peeling

The three stages of peeling

Of course, me being me . . I forgot them and they were in the oven for a full 40 minutes of roasting. But the tough little nuts did not burn and were not overdone at all. Or so I think. Seems that chestnuts are Vencolini-proof, which is something I can't say for most meals, forgotten in the oven by me. So that's a first - nothing was on fire and for once my house was smoke-free.

Divide and conker

Ok, I may have overdone it with that last pun, but this is literally how you would eat chestnuts. Once they are done, the cuts you've made before baking would've opened up a bit, like a blossoming flower. You would use that to split the shell and the nut will fall out (hopefully not on the floor). Then it's a matter of peeling the inner, slightly hairy shell.

Different stages of ripe

Different stages of ripe

Contrary to what I've written, the chestnut is not a nut in the classic sense, because it's soft and creamy, once you get it out. It's absolutely fantastic to eat and it's healthy. Chestnuts are a fantastic source of Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and potassium. There's barely any fibre, which is surprising, but then 60% is water content. The latter is barely believable, once you try them.

And the difference from the inside. The left one is a bit tougher, the right one is creamy!

And the difference from the inside. The left one is a bit tougher, the right one is creamy!

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