Chestnuts are intoxicating in both aroma and taste- their sweet, earthy flavour, accompanied by a texture that is both gratifyingly crumbly and velvety smooth, is nothing short of unique. Unlike other nuts, they are only eaten cooked and have a distinct nutritional profile- low in fat, high in fibre and rich in Vitamin C! While they make great accompaniments to many dishes, both savoury and sweet, there is nothing more satisfying than enjoying chestnuts in all their authenticity- warm, unadorned and whole! This simple how-to guide shows you that an open-fire is not the only way to cook these delicious, nutty gems.
Before cooking, rinse the chestnuts in cold water and dry them off. It is imperative to always slit the outer shell of a chestnut, in order to prevent it from bursting, during the cooking process (all methods). Lie the chestnut on its’ flat side, then using a small knife make a shallow long slit crosswise over the top. The cut should go through the full thickness of the shell, but not so deep that it penetrates the flesh.
Roasting chestnuts in the oven is generally the most common method of cooking, as it is simple and offers a roasted richness- similar to that of an open fire. Preheat the oven to approximately 200°C. Place the chestnuts in a large baking tray (ensure not to overcrowd) and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the slits have started to open.
Cooking chestnuts in a pan will also give them a smoky flavour. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, and then add the chestnuts in a single layer. Cook for approximately 15 minutes, or until tender, ensuring to give the pan a good shake every few minutes.
Boiling is another easy and quick way to cook chestnuts. While it won’t give them a roasted smokiness, boiling chestnuts is a great way to keep the flesh tender and creamy. It is also a good method to apply if the variety of chestnuts you are using is difficult to peel. Place the prepared chestnuts in a pan of cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for approximately 15-20 minutes, or until tender.
Place 6 to 8 prepared chestnuts in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Cook on high for one-minute intervals, until tender.
Once finished cooking (all methods, except for boiling), wrap the chestnuts in a tea towel and leave for 10 minutes (this will make the peeling process easier). Once they are cool enough to handle, peel away the shells and skin.
If boiled, there’s no need to wrap the chestnuts in a tea towel; simply remove the chestnuts one at a time from the water to peel.
Handy Hint: Chestnuts are much easier to peel when they are warm- so don’t leave them waiting for too long!
While, chestnuts are deliciously satisfying on their own, they also marry perfectly with many other ingredients and work an absolute treat in a variety of dishes.
This tutorial is also helpful:
Here are a few chestnuts recipes you can try at home!