It’s Meat Free Monday and the time for Chestnuts. Last weekend we were at Love Food Christmas Festival in Bristol where hot roasted chestnuts were on offer, a winter treat that used to be common on the street corners, but there are none in Bath this year.
Sweet Chestnuts (Castanea sativa) do grow in England. In The Forest of Dean, the wood from chestnut trees is made into furniture and coppiced for fence posts. The chesnuts don’t get very big, but are edible and when very fresh the foresters eat them raw in the local pubs. Large chestnuts come from the southern Mediterranean and there are numerous ways to enjoy them. If you want to try roasting your own, make a slice in each chestnuts otherwise they can explode. When well roasted, rub off the bitter membrane that encases the chestnut and then eat at once.
You can also buy chestnut flour, made of very finely ground chestnuts and has a sweet slightly bitter flavour. It’s more akin to ground almonds than flour, as it contains no gluten. As such, it's best to mix chestnut flour with other flour in baking recipes. Chestnuts are also delicious candied, Marrons Glace style.
One of our favourite ways to enjoy chestnuts is in this borlotti bean stew, a deliciously rich chestnut stew, flavoured with robust herbs and red wine. It's best made the day before for the flavours to infuse the beans. If you haven’t got time to roast and peel, buy ready cooked vacuum packed chestnuts.
Borlotti Bean and Chestnut Stew