The weather is turning wintry, houses are gradually being adorned and our mood becomes more and more festive. The Christmas images that come to mind feature illuminated squares, full of shiny stars, toys and the fragrance of roasting chestnuts. That smell transports us to family outings, our pictures taken with Santa Claus in the big department stores of the past and memories from our carefree childhood.
However, many among us even though we love chestnuts, shut these fond memories out by avoiding cooking chestnuts at home. We are usually anxious about how to cook them and we are almost always afraid to peel them.
But chestnuts are an excellent choice because they are very nutritious in addition to being delicious. These large edible fruits, characterized by a delicate and slightly sweet taste, are considered a complete food. They have a soft texture resembling to that of potatoes and can give an extraordinary taste to both savoury and sweet recipes.
In Greece we find chestnut trees in Thessaly, Macedonia and the mountainous areas of Crete, Peloponnese and Lesvos, while renowned are the varieties of Pelion and Crete.
Let’s look at some cooking tips for chestnuts that will make the process easier and will help fill your home with enticing scents
The basic way to cook the chestnuts is in their shell, which you should remove after softening. The most important advice before boiling or baking them is to use a sharp knife to slash them on their flatter side, usually in a T shape
Initially, you should follow the previous advice, which is to slash them with a knife on their flatter side. Then put the chestnuts in a saucepan and cover them with salted water. From the moment it comes to the boil, it takes approximately 25-30 minutes.
Use a knife to peel them. Remember: the more they cool down the harder the peeling will be. Don’t get disappointed if you see the chestnuts crumble as you peel them. It is something that happens quite often. Besides, this method is suitable for recipes that call for eventually mashing them to make a chestnut purée or mousse.
Extra tip: If you are not planning to use them all immediately, leave the ones you don’t need in the hot water, as the high temperature helps with their peeling.
Preheat your fan assisted oven at 220°C. Place the chestnuts (that you have previously slashed) on a baking tray in which you have also added some water so they do not dry out. Roast them for about 20 minutes and serve immediately because letting them cool down means more trouble peeling them. Instead of water you may place them on a grease proof paper.
Tips for roasting on charcoals
In case you want to roast your chestnuts over charcoals, use an aluminium baking tray that you have previously pierced, making a row of small holes. Don’t forget to slash the chestnuts to allow their internal steam to escape. Place the baking tray with the chestnuts on a rake over the charcoals. You must be on the alert at all times so they don’t burn and char. Again, they are best peeled while hot.
Extra tip: Do not discard the peel because they serve as excellent kindling for the fireplace
Ideas for meals and recipes
Even though we do not have the habit of using them in the Greek cuisine, chestnuts are an excellent addition for both sweet and savoury creations. In Europe as a matter of fact they are even used as a potato substitute due to their high starch content.
Chestnuts pair well with pork, especially if cooked with classic balsamic cream Kalamata Papadimitriou. The balsamic cream’s rich sweet and sour taste combined with the sweet aftertaste of the chestnuts creates a unique effect. Also, boiled chestnuts give a distinct texture to baked potatoes. If you marinate potatoes in Oregano and Thyme gentle Mediterranean Mustard Kalamata Papadimitriou and add rustic sausages, you will elevate the taste experience to a higher level.
Another good idea this year except for adding chestnuts to the Christmas stuffing is to glaze your turkey with Pomegranate Balsaminc Cream Kalamata Papadimitriou. This way, not only will you accentuate the chestnut’s sweet flavour, but you will also add a crunchy texture to your festive dish.
Naturally, tasty chestnuts cannot be absent from your delicious desserts. And we do not mean only the classical marrons glacés (candied chestnuts), even though they too are delicious. Chestnut is a great match for dark chocolate and pairs perfectly with the aroma of vanilla. You will find it in sponge cakes or brioches but also in cream cakes and tarts.
We propose that you make a dessert with mascarpone cheese and caramelized chestnuts with Fig Balsamic Cream Kalamata Papadimitriou. You can serve it in individual glass jars (or glasses) making the experience even more interesting.
This Christmas take matters into your own hands and impress friends and relatives. Share impressions and ideas for new recipes and create unique culinary memories.