Throughout autumn months, stalls at local greengrocers and farmer's markets are brimming with produce from the earth, orchard and forest. Think good things like truffles and mushrooms; squash and pumpkins; apples, quinces and pears; and walnuts and chestnuts.
If you haven’t yet discovered the taste of fresh chestnuts, you’re missing out on a real treat. The toasty-sweet aroma of freshly-cooked chestnuts is intoxicating, while their versatile nutty flavour and roast potato-like texture makes them the perfect ingredient to create extra special savoury or sweet meals.
For ease and convenience, purchase a kilo or two of fresh chestnuts at a time. Cook and peel them, and then store prepared chestnuts in zip-lock bags in the freezer, so that they are on hand and ready to add to your weekly meals.
The freshest new season chestnuts have a glossy brown firm shell and feel heavy for their size. Refrigerate uncooked chestnuts in a paper bag in the crisper for two to three days, or in an airtight container for up to ten days. Cooked chestnuts can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to four days. For longer storage, freeze cooked and peeled chestnuts in small freezer bags for up to six months.
Chestnuts can be roasted, boiled, microwaved, grilled or barbecued. When cooked, 1 kg of chestnuts yields about 700g of cooked and peeled chestnuts. Preparation isn't quite as daunting as it may seem. First, cut a shallow cross into the flat side of the chestnut shell. This will prevent the nut from overheating and bursting while cooking.
If boiling, cut the chestnuts in half across the width of the chestnut before cooking. Place the prepared chestnuts into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the flesh is tender and easily separates from the shell.
To roast, preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan-forced. Place prepared chestnuts onto a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the shells split open.
For cooking in the microwave, place six to eight prepared chestnuts in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Cook, uncovered, at full power (850 watts or on High) for 2-3 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Timing can vary depending on chestnut size and microwave power. Chestnuts will split open on cooking.
To grill or barbecue, place prepared chestnuts on a tray under a moderate to hot grill or place chestnuts directly onto the barbecue grill, cook turning a couple of times, for 15-20 minutes or until the shells blacken and split open.
Peel chestnuts while they are still warm as, depending on the variety you buy, they can be tricky to peel when cooled. Once cooked, remove chestnuts from the heat and wrap in a clean tea towel for 5-10 minutes and then quickly peel off the outer brown shell and remove the papery thin skin underneath. If boiled, the chestnuts will slip easily from their shell; simply remove one chestnut at a time from the water whilst still warm to peel.
Celebrate autumn and all its earthy goodness with this heartwarming chestnut and mushroom soup.
CHESTNUT & MUSHROOM SOUP
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium leek, trimmed, halved lengthways and finely sliced
350g button mushrooms, diced
400g cooked and peeled chestnuts
5 cups chicken stock
Cream or natural Greek-style yoghurt, to serve
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add leek and cook, stirring often, for 3-4 minutes until tender. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring often, for 3 minutes until softening. Stir in chestnuts and stock, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and gently simmer, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes or until chestnuts are soft. Remove from heat.
Using a hand blender, blend soup until smooth. Simmer over low heat until hot. Season to taste. Ladle into serving bowls. Drizzle with cream or top with a dollop of yoghurt and serve. Top with pan-fried sliced chestnuts for a crunchy garnish, if desired. Preparation 15 minutes. Cooking 45 minutes. This quantity serves 4. Note, this soup thickens on standing, so, if necessary, add extra stock.
Recipe and image courtesy Chestnuts Australia. This is not a sponsored post.
Tell me dear readers, do you enjoy chestnuts?
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.