Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It’s the age-old festive snack, perfect for warming you up after a chilly walk or a snowball fight.
But how do you actually cook chestnuts if you don’t happen to have an open fire? And do you really have to roast them? And what can you actually do with the chestnuts once they’re cooked?
If, like us, you love the idea of eating chestnuts at Christmas but have absolutely no idea what to do with them, worry no longer. We have asked the professionals to break it down for us.
So, rather than throwing away yet another unopened bag of chestnuts in January, read on to learn how to make them an integral part of your Christmas menu.
How to roast perfect chestnuts
First off, you have to pick the perfect chestnuts. Luckily, that’s not too tricky.
‘Choosing chestnuts is easy,’ says private chef Rachel Muse.
‘All the chestnuts in our supermarkets are big and firm and shiny. Exactly the way you want them.
‘These are the smaller edible cousins of the horse chestnut or conker.’
Rachel says roasting chestnuts is a bit like popping popcorn, but less dramatic. Here’s her method:
First, pre-heating your oven to 200°C (Gas mark 6).
The chestnut has a flat and a rounded side a bit like a hemisphere. With a small sharp knife, score through the skin to the ‘nut’ below.
Do this on the rounded side of each chestnut and make two scores to form a cross. This helps the skin of the chestnut peel back during the roasting.
Do this with the whole net bag of chestnuts.
Place the chestnuts, cross side up, on a baking tray.
Once the oven is up to temperature, roast the chestnuts for about 30 minutes until the skins have burst open and you can see the pale flesh inside.
You can also be making roast chicken at the same time so as not to turn the oven on just for the chestnuts.
Take out of the oven and tip the hot chestnuts into a couple of plates, this helps them cool down.
When they are just warm to the touch (if possible don’t let them go cold, that makes the next stage more difficult) either with your finger nails or a small knife, peel the skin and the membrane just underneath the skin away from the flesh.
And there you have your fresh roast chestnuts.
The good news is that you can stop there if you want. As the classic Christmas song suggests, freshly roasted chestnuts are delicious just as they are.
But, if you do want to get a bit more creative, there are plenty of recipes you can try, from the complex to the super simple.
Simple chestnut recipes for Christmas
Food stylist and blogger Chikumo Fiseko, suggests an incredibly simple way to make the most of your roasted chestnuts, and to bring them into your Christmas dinner:
‘We put them in the oven for 20 minutes or so,’ she explains.
‘When they are cool enough (they can explode), we crack them open and top with sea salt. Or we will cut them up and add them to some cranberry sauce, which we have with chicken.’
That sounds delicious.
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