Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Top Quality Chestnuts

Nirvana chestnut orchardIf you want top quality chestnuts then there no better place to purchase them direct from a grower. By about now in the supermarkets and fruit shop you’ll see plenty of dull, soft chestnuts – the price like most local produce is well below the cost of  production .DO  NOT BUY THEM they are rubbish. When purchasing Chestnuts they should look shiny and feel firm and cool. Don't buy dull and crackly nuts because you will be disappointed.
Nirvana roasted chestnuts
At Nirvana Farm we have been growing and selling chestnuts direct from our farm for 30 years as well as  roasting them in our local village , Stirling. Our chestnuts are hand harvested every day, graded and placed in our cold room at 0c,Each weekend during the season Quentin cooks them in Stirling. As well as tasting delicious they are our quality control. When you purchase fresh chestnuts from the farm they are fresher and younger than the batch that are being cooked. All nuts are logged and sold in order
Chestnuts are fresh fruit and  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:Roasted chestnuts
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.We use a pair of anvil secateurs to cut the nuts- its quick and easy.
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.
Various recipes need peeled 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.
Dried Chestnuts: Cover them with water bring to boil, turn off and soak over night. At this stage they can be used in most recipes. 250 gm. dried chestnuts will reconstitute to approx. 700 gm.
The chestnuts are now ready to use in various recipes.
Chestnut Puree
Chestnuts (peeled or soaked dried)
Milk, water or stock
Put Chestnuts in saucepan, cover with liquid, and simmer gently until soft. Mash and put through a mouli or blend in food processor.
Can add salt or sugar to taste.
Chestnut puree forms a base for many recipes.
chestnut cake 003Chestnut, Chocolate and Orange Cake
Our favourite celebration cake from ‘The Biodynamic Food and Cookbook’ by Wendy E. Cook
Required: two 9 inch/23 cm, loose-bottomed cake tins, buttered and lined with baking parchment Oven 180C
6 large eggs
350 g cooked chestnuts puréed or sieved. (Either fresh or dried chestnuts that have been rehydrated can be used. The total amount of cooked chestnut needed will be 15 oz./400 g, which includes the 3 oz./75 g in the filling.)
225 g caster sugar
175 g grated dark chocolate
grated zest of I large orange
For the filling, combine:
275 ml double cream, whipped’
25 g icing sugar
1 tbsp. Grand Marnier
75g chestnut puree
For the icing
175 g dark chocolate
1 tbsp. orange juice plus zest
50 g unsalted butter
1. Separate the eggs one at a time, making sure there are no shell pieces left in.
2. Beat the yolks and caster sugar together until thick, pale and creamy.
3. Add the chestnut purée and grated chocolate (grating in a processor is best, as the warmth of the hand on a hand grater tends to melt the chocolate).
4. In a large bowl (copper is good, if you have one) beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff (here an electric hand whisk is helpful).
5. Fold the egg whites gently into the chestnut— chocolate mixture without losing too much air, but until the mixture is reasonably homogenized. The chocolate will stay in flecks.
6. Divide into two cake tins and bake for 30 minutes in moderate oven. Be careful when turning out on the serving plate as it will be it a little fragile (because it contains no gluten).
7. Sandwich the two cakes together with the filling.
8. Prepare icing by melting ingredients together over a double boiler. Pour evenly over the cake. Allow to cool and harden.
Sometimes I  lighten this cake a little by adding 1- 1.5 cups  of S R flour.

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