When I was a little girl, and indeed a teenager, my parents would buy sweet chestnuts on a stall at their town market. They’d roast them and then we’d burn our finger tips deshelling them.
I’ve had, very occasionally, roast chestnuts from a street seller. But they’ve always been coated in sugar and way too sweet.
Every year I watch out for sweet chestnuts when we’re out and about. They’re easy to spot, they look like conkers but with lots more spikes on their shells, finer and almost fluffy.
However, I’ve always found the nuts inside shrunken and small. Nothing like the ones in the picture above.
At last, I came across some that resembled the chestnuts of my childhood. Not in some country park or arboretum or woodland though. I’d been for lunch with some friends and walked home with one. On the entrance to her side road, a chestnut tree overhung the pavement and I realised the shells were dropping and popping open, revealing nice round nuts!
After saying goodbye, I filled my coat pockets and brought them home.
My parents were visiting this past weekend, by coincidence, so my dad taught me how to roast the chestnuts.
We sliced each one quite deep, to prevent them from exploding and to help with peeling later. Then put them on a baking tray and roasted them at gas mark 6 for 25 minutes. A full half hour would have been better.
Then we scooped them into bowls and set about deshelling the nuts.
The shells were tricky to peel off, another 5 minutes in the oven would have helped with that. But one exploded as I picked up the tray to check, so it was tricky to judge.
Himself had never had them, but declared that they didn’t taste of anything.
I thought they were amazing. I’ll bring digging out my recipe for sausage, lentil and chestnut casserole, my creme de châtaignes cocktail and the creme de marrons with yogurt snack that I love.