There was a time when I thought that life was too short to be bothered with roasting chestnuts at home. Sure, I enjoyed buying bags of them, steaming hot and freshly roasted, from sellers at market stalls - but had struggled with preparing them myself. And then I discovered that there are different varieties of chestnuts, some of which are easier to peel than others.
Find a grower or greengrocer who carries varieties such as Purton's Pride or De Coppi Marone, and you will find that cooking chestnuts can be a most pleasurable experience. If you are unsure, just ask the grocer or seller.
In Australia, the chestnut season runs from March through to July, but you may still find them throughout August, too. Choose those with a firm, glossy brown shell and check to make sure that they feel heavy for their size. Reject any with a damaged shell.
To store, pop chestnuts in a brown paper bag in the crisper of your fridge and make sure you use them within two or three days. If you want to keep them for longer, cook the chestnuts and peel them before freezing the flesh.
The simplest way to roast chestnuts is to cut an 'X' on the flat side of the shell using the tip of a sharp paring knife. Preheat your oven to 200°C. Place the chestnuts cut side up on a tray and roast them for about 15-20 minutes, or until the shells split open. Don't be too concerned if the outer shell begins to turn black.
Remove the tray from the oven and wrap the chestnuts in a clean tea towel, leaving them to steam for 5-10 minutes. Then sit at a table with a loved one, to peel and enjoy the roasted chestnuts while they are still warm. It's that easy.
Roasted chestnuts can be used in a variety of dishes, including soups and salads. You will find a superb selection of recipes on the Chestnuts Australia Inc. web site, and also on the Cheznuts web pages. There is also a baked chocolate chestnut pudding recipe here.
Apart from the image at the top of this article (chestnuts on the tree), photographs appear kind courtesy of Chestnuts Australia Inc. For news about chestnuts, including the downloadable recipe and information leaflet, visit the web site.
Have you ever tried roasting chestnuts at home, dear readers? Perhaps you have a favourite grower, or a tree in your garden?
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NB: I use Australian standard measuring cups and spoons in my recipes.