Chestnuts

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Saturday morning at the farmers’ markets at EPIC has become a much-loved ritual for A and me, and is one of the times I feel most Canberra-proud: wonderful produce, unpretentious location, good coffee, fresh crepes and the inability to walk from one end of the shed to the other without running into at least one colleague each.

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Trips to the markets often result in some kind of ingredient-specific obsession in me for a few weeks. The latest is the chestnut: wintery, sweet, creamy and versatile; with an interesting nutritional profile: very low fat, super-starchy and with decent quantities of goodies like fibre and folate.

As you enter the markets, the chestnut stall is on the right and close to the entrance. The lovely stall-keepers give good advice (buy an easy-peel variety and keep the in the fridge) and are always ready with a roasted chestnut or two for you to nibble on. Chestnuts are pretty cheap, too – a kilo for $7 or so gives you a big bag that will give plenty of scope for experimenting.ImageI’ll post soon with a couple of more involved recipes, but wanted to start with simple instructions for roasting chestnuts. Last Friday night, I invited a bunch of colleagues round to my place on the night of the winter solstice for roasted chestnuts and mulled wine – perfect time of year for embracing this kind of food!

Roasted chestnuts

1. Score chestnuts with a sharp knife in the shape of a cross, as below. I’ve found it’s easier and safer to score the rounded side, allowing the flatter side to rest on the board. The cuts should just pierce the flesh of the chestnuts, to prevent them from bursting in the oven. (I had a few of those, two, causing plenty of hilarity at my place.)Image

2. Cook in a hot oven (220 degrees) for about 20 minutes. The nuts will open beautifully so that they are easier to peel.

3. Leave them for a few minutes before peeling the nuts out of both the outer (harder) and inner (more flaky) shells. If you have guests, let them peel them themselves – it’s easier for you and more fun for them – and serve with salt, which cuts through the creaminess.

4. If you are planning to use some nuts in a recipe later, peel them while they’re warm – it’s much easier – and then keep peeled nuts in the fridge.ImageImage

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