Wednesday, 5 November 2014
A sure sign of fall is that you can find chestnuts in the grocery stores. They are truly a seasonal produce, only available for a few short weeks and then gone again. When I saw them in store, I just had to get some, although they are not the cheapest. My Mum used to make them in a white oven proof dish, so that's also how I also made them. We used to eat ours by the open fire in the living room. As we don't have an open fire, candles had to do instead. But it was just as dark outside as it was back home when we used to have them.
Roasting chestnuts is very easy, there is only one perilous step when you have to cut the crosses into the skin. It can be quite tough, so you need a sharp knife, and you need to be very careful. Other than that, just pop them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes and you have a delicious meal at your hands.
In my childhood home, we usually had them just as they were, with a bit of lemon butter on the side, but you need quite a bit of chestnuts to make a full meal, so it's a good idea to serve soup or something else as a "starter" before digging into the chestnuts.
The one annoying thing is you don't know whether you have a good batch of chestnuts before you start peeling them. Sometimes the skin comes off really easily, whereas other times the thin inner, slightly fuzzy, skin won't come off at all and it's really frustrating to eat them. Sometimes if you are unlucky a large proportion of the chestnuts are mouldy, in which case you shouldn't eat them.
sea salt (for the dish)
lemon or garlic butter
Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Pour sea salt (finger salt is better than fine salt) into an oven proof dish to help the chestnuts stay upright. Using a small sharp knife, cut a cross in the skin of the chestnuts. Roast for 20-25 minutes.
To prepare the lemon or garlic butter, mix lemon juice or roasted garlic with some butter.
To enjoy your chestnuts, serve them immediately. Serving them in the oven proof dish with the hot salt will help keep them hot while you peel and eat away. Peel the tough outer shell and the fuzzy inner skin and enjoy with a knob of butter.
We were a bit unlucky with our batch of chestnuts as some of them didn't want to get peeled and the inner fuzzy skin stuck to the nuts, so peeling them was hard work. But they tasted just as delicious as I remembered from when my Mum used to roast them for us on dark autumn evenings. We had about 20 chestnuts each, which is about as many as I usually can be bothered to peel. To make a proper meal out of it, you might want to serve soup or something else as a starter while the chestnuts are roasting. I also think serving them with something on the side, such as these delicious garlic breads would make them more filling. Or you could just eat them as a snack or treat.