CHESTNUTS contain more starch and less fat than most other nuts, as well as being rich in vitamin B so are worth adding to your diet.
Chestnuts are available late autumn- early winter. They are traditional cold weather snacks when roasted in their shells. Chestnuts can also be served as a vegetable or chopped in a stuffing or as puree in soups or deserts.
Purchasing Chestnuts: Chestnuts should look shiny and feel firm and cool. Don't buy dull and crackly nuts because you will be disappointed.
Storage: Chestnuts are best used fresh. Store in the refrigerator crisper in a paper bag. They are best frozen after cooked and peeled. Frozen, cooked chestnuts can be thrown into a stir-fry or a curry. Nirvana Organic Produce also has dried chestnut pieces available all year, which can be used in most recipes calling for fresh chestnuts.
Roasting Methods: The trick to the best roasted chestnuts is to understand that you have to dry the skin while you cook the starchy nut and convert the starch into sugars. All roasting requires the nut to be cut, usually along the scar to allow the skin to shrink and peel back, and allow steam to escape.
Method 1. Oven. Spread a single layer of equal sized and cut nuts over a baking dish. Place the tray on the highest shelf in the preheated oven @ 200c for 20-30 minutes. Give the tray a good shake at half time. If you have an electric oven with a top heat element, use that to par-grill and singe-shrink the skins. This will speed up the cooking process but requires more attention.
Method 2. Griller. Select and cut the nuts and place on the griller tray. Requires attention with continuous shaking-rotating, 10-15 minutes.
Method 3. Traditional. Some European communities roast chestnuts with a special fry pan with lots of small holes drilled in the bottom. The nuts are roasted in the fry pan over naked flames /coals /gas and can be tossed /rattled to ensure even cooking. Variations of this method include using the BBQ grill section, on top of the slow combustion stove, in a jaffle iron or using a rotating wire basket.
Fresh Chestnuts: To peel chestnuts put a small slash on the bottom of the nut, cover with cold water, and bring to the boil. As soon as the water is bubbling briskly, remove from heat and peel off the shell and inner skin. This is easier to do while hot -hold in a cloth. Don’t allow them to continue boiling or they will turn floury and be impossible to peel.If you don’t need whole nut e.g. making purees or soups the cut in half before adding them to water as above. The process will be much quicker.
The chestnuts are now ready to use in various recipes. Here are a few ideas