Monday, 20 October 2008

Cooking with Sweet Chestnuts

Sweet chestnuts are one of the glories of late Autumn, one of those wild foods that you really should go out of your way to forage. In much of Europe, sweet chestnuts are a very versatile food, turned into flours, pastes, sauces and even beer. Indeed, the use of chestnuts dates from Roman times (as the recipe given below shows). Just be sure, when picking, that you select edible Sweet Chestnuts (Castanea sativa) and not the toxic Horse Chestnut (sweet chestnuts have lots of needle-like spines on the outer casing and there are three tear-drop nuts inside).

Remove the outer casing and you will have the brow nuts. The outer casing is inedible, but can be easily removed if you cut a cross in the top of the nut then blanch in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Remove the brown case and rub off the inner peel and you will have the white flesh of the nut itself. These blanched nuts will freeze very well and will last you easily through the Winter and spring. You can also turn sweet chestnuts into flour by drying the sweet chestnuts and then grinding in to flour (you can also buy sweet chestnut flour).

Lenticulam de castaneis
(Roman Lentils and Chestnuts)


600ml beef stock
225g sweet chestnuts, cleaned
1/2 tsp black peppercorns
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp rosemary, chopped
1 tbsp mint, chopped
dash of bitters (optional, mimics the flavour of rue seed)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
200g cooked lentils (see above)
salt, to taste
freshly-ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil


Combine the spices in a mortar and pound into a powder then add the herbs and bruise. Mix in the red wine, honey and bitters and stir to form a paste.

Clean and wash the chestnuts then add to a pan along with the stock and the spice mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook until the chestnuts are tender and almost all the liquid has been absorbed (about 40 minutes). Puree the mixture (either with a pestle and mortar or in a blender) then return to the pot along with the lentils. Add 120ml water and allow to heat through.

Season with salt, transfer to a serving bowl and grind some black pepper over the top. Garnish with olive oil and serve.

This recipe is reproduced, with thanks from the Celtnet Roman Lentils and Chestnuts Recipe, part of that site's Ancient Roman Recipes collection.

Below is a cake recipe using sweet chestnut flour.

Chestnut Flour Cake Recipe

400g sweet chestnut flour (either buy or make your own by grinding sweet chestnuts)
30g pine nuts
30g raisins
4 tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
generous knob of butter
7 tbsp breadcrumbs (about)

Place the raisins in a large bowl, cover with warm water and soak for 20 minutes then drain and squeeze out the excess moisture.

Combine the chestnut flour, sugar and salt in a bowl then add 4 tbsp olive oil to moisten and mix to combine. Now add just enough warm water to bring the mixture together as a soft batter.

Grease a cake pan with butter then sprinkle the breadcrumbs over to cover. Pour in the swet chestnut batter then arrange the pine nuts and raisins on top. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top then place the cake in an oven pre-heated to 180°C. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the top of the cake is golden and a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake emerges cleanly.

This recipe is reproduced, with thanks, from the Celtnet Chestnut Flour Cake Recipe.

For more sweet chestnut recipes please visit the Celtnet Sweet Chestnut Recipes, which is part of the Celtnet Wild Foods Recipes site.

For all the wild food recipes on this blog, see the wild food recipes page.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular Posts