Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sweet chestnuts - how to prepare them

freshly harvested sweet chestnuts are highly nutritious and can take part in so many delicious recipes

Now with the chestnut harvest season open we'll be cooking every day something with sweet chestnuts. These incredibly nutritious and freely available foods are very versatile and can be used in endless culinary ideas, sweet or savory.

Here are a few examples of where and how I use steamed chestnuts in:

- smoothies with banana, carob or cocoa powder
- hot drinks, with oat/rice milk and spices or with cocoa powder
- creamy sweet spreads with vanilla and dates or with melted dark chocolate!
- savory spreads with nutmeg, chili pepper, tahini, garden herbs such as rosemary or basil
- tapenades with sun-dried tomatoes, capers, nutritional yeast, olives, sambal and lemon juice + zest
- stews instead of rice or noodles - I just add them at the end of the cooking, lightly broken
- soups
- Thai or Indian curries, also instead of noodles or rice
- pancakes, cakes, bread, cinnamon rolls...
- burgers, with some chickpea flour or oat flakes and spices
- add to seitan recipes, for extra richness
- lasagne white sauce (instead of wheat flour as used in bechamel)
- pizzas and calzones
- croquettes
- or I simply freeze them for later use.

How I prepare the chestnuts, for immediate use or to freeze:

Rinse the sweet chestnuts and make shallow cross-like cuts on their round, thicker end. Steam them for 20 minutes or until they show the little cross cuts open up and their peel is flexible to be removed. Peel them while they are still hot and moist as it is much easier to do that before they cool down. If they get cold and their skin hardens again, you can re-steam them again.

Use them directly or cook them further according to what is required in your recipe.

In France most people prepare their chestnuts directly on the fire with the use of special pans, like this one:  'La Lyonnaise' Poêle à Marrons . These are pretty handy to use and it allows you to peel both the outer shell and inner dark brown layer (which doesn't bother me but it might give a little rough effect in some creamy recipes). Note that if you don't have direct fire to cook with - instead if your stove is induction, ceramic or electric - these pans won't work.

*Note: if you harvest sweet chestnuts for the first time, please make sure to learn the difference between them and horse chestnut, a similar nut that can also be found under large trees in the same season. Here is a post with pictures that can help you with that:
Sweet chestnuts and Horse chestnuts: how to tell the difference.

Curious about how nutritious sweet chestnuts are? Take a look the nutrition facts:

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