Thump, thump, thump. Chestnuts are falling thick and fast in High Country Victoria. But what on earth do you do with a bucketful of these mysterious nuts?
Let’s start with the good stuff. Chestnuts are gluten free, contain no fat, have low GI and no cholesterol. They’re also pretty darned versatile and can add earthy goodness to cakes, soups, stews and stuffing (yum!), as well as being enjoyed as a snack.
Here’s our beginner’s guide to chestnuts. (Huge thanks to Wandiful Produce for the tips!
Step 1. Find a chestnut tree and check the calendar. If it is between late March and early July AND you’re in Australia, then all is good.
Step 2. Look on the ground under said chestnut tree. There, do you see it a spiky green ball? That’s got the goods inside.
Step 3. In some solid boots (thongs not recommended), gently press your foot upon the spiky ball whilst rolling the foot away from yourself – this will split the skin and pop out (hopefully) one or two shiny brown chestnuts – hooray!
Step 4. Using this technique gather up as many chestnuts as you can muster. A good rule of thumb is 1kg of shiny brown chestnuts will leave you with about 700g of edible chestnut goodness.
Step 5. Take a sharp knife and carefully score a cross into each chestnut, piercing the tough brown skin.
Step 6. Now you have a decision to make. Either pop the chestnuts into a pot of boiling water for 20 minutes or, as our Italian friends say, the best and proper way to cook chestnuts is roast them for 20 minutes in a pan over a hot fire whilst drinking wine. We know which one we prefer, but we also know which is more practical!
Step 7. Both methods will see the chestnut skins split where the cross was made. Remove the chestnuts from the heat and cover with a towel (remember to drain the water from the pot if you chose to boil them). By covering the chestnuts with a towel you make them sweat a little, which makes it easier to peel away the skin.
Step 8. After 20 minutes of sweating and wine drinking, it’s time to peel your goodies. Be sure to remove the outer brown skin as well as the furry membrane layer under the skin, so you’re left with a pale yellowish-green nut.
They’ll taste great with the wine you’re drinking ….OR if you’re not in the moment, you can store them in a dry cool place (better yet, freeze them!) and use them to bake cakes and biscuits. Chop them and add to your morning porridge. Or throw them in stews and soups. YUM!