Sweet chestnuts are the perfect foragers food, they’re easy to identify ( I’m a bit scared of picking wild mushrooms, because of the awful consequences if you get it wrong) and there are lots of different ways to eat them.
There’s a lot of determination needed to gather sweet chestnuts, their lime-green cases are prickly as hell and then there’s the matter of the skin to be peeled once they’ve been cooked.
When they’re out of their spiky jackets, the leathery skins have to be removed before they’re cooked.
How to peel and cook sweet chestnuts:
- Make a little cut into the skin with a sharp knife. They can be cooked on the fire at this stage, we put them in a clean tin and pop them in the wood burning stove for a few minutes
- Otherwise, drop them into a pan of boiling water for 2-3 minutes
- They’re much easier to peel whilst their warm so take them out a few at a time to deal with them. The thin brown under-skin should come off at this stage too
- Put the peeled chestnuts into a pan, cover with water and bring it all to the boil
- Simmer for 30 minutes and they’re done.
They can be frozen at this stage and used later.
It’s a faff, but the reward for all this is a harvest of nuts with a sweet, floury texture and a variety of uses, completely free of charge and without any air-miles.
They’re wonderful in rich, gamey casseroles, incorporated into stuffing, a main ingredient of nut roasts or, if you’re ambitious, roasted and ground into flour. Then there’s the delicious sweet alternative recipe, making them into a chestnut puree and combining with chocolate for a festive French Buche de Noel.