Originally from Southeastern Europe, chestnuts have become very popular throughout the world. They are the sweet nuts of the chestnut tree.
Mostly available from September to February (although you can find them almost anytime of the year now), chestnuts should be carefully chosen. You should get the ones that are hard, definitely not soft, and shiny. Also they should be kind of heavy for their small size and a good trick is that they should not rattle when you shake them, they should be nice and firm.
Chestnuts take time to prepare but they are definitely worth it. They have to be pealed as they have two layers of skin before getting to the actual nut. The first layer is the hard one, easy to remove, whereas the second skin is very bitter and harder to remove. But there is a trick for that.
Most common in France, chestnuts are enjoyed in sweet and savory dishes. Raw, roasted, boiled, or mashed you can use it in almost everything. Chestnuts go with desserts, soups, meat, stuffing and more. You can even prepare them and keep some aside for future use.
Here are a few good recipes that you can look up, in which you will find chestnuts:
'The Mont Blanc' – an easy, delicious cake made with meringue, cream and chestnuts.
Roast leg of lamb with chestnuts – a normal savory roast lamb recipe accompanied with any vegetables you like, and of course chestnuts.
The 'Poire Belle Hélène' – an amazing desert made of poached pears, served with vanilla ice cream, chocolate syrup and chestnut cream.
'Marron Glacé' – which is the French term for candied chestnuts, a delicious delicacy.
The one I will be showing you though, is how to make an easy chestnut cream, which you can use to add to other recipes. Chestnut cream goes very well with pancakes, and you would use it for the 'Poire Belle Hélène' recipe for example, or as a side for savory dishes.
Chestnut Cream or 'Crème de Marrons'
Ingredients: 500g chestnuts (will give you 300g of cream) 200g sugar Vanilla bean (or vanilla essence will work just as good) Water
Put the chestnuts in a saucepan and boil for about 10 minutes. Once they are boiled, removed them one by one by peeling off the first and second layer of skin. Make sure you get rid of all that skin and are left with only the nut. You might notice some of them are bad, in which case chuck them out. You do not want those in your cream.
*If you removed them from the boiling water all at once, they will start to cool down and the skin will go back to normal. The trick is to do them one by one that way the skin stay soft, and easy to remove.
Once you have peeled your chestnuts, give them a good rinse to remove any bits and pieces. Now, you will need a big saucepan, place the cleaned chestnuts into the pan and fill up with water about twice as much as chestnuts. Cover with a lid and let to boil until all the water has evaporated.
When all the water is gone, the chestnut will soft enough for you to mash them into a paste. If the chestnuts aren't ready just add some water and let to boil until almost all the water is gone.
You can use a blender to mash the chestnuts but for this amount of chestnuts a fork or something else will suffice.
Put the mash on the side. In another saucepan, place the sugar with about half a cup of water. Let to boil until big bubbles start to form. When you have those bubbles, add you mashed chestnuts and stir into a nice thick cream.