Chestnuts make me think of cold, wintery climates like North America and Europe, where people rugged up in puffy hooded jackets snack on fresh fire roasted chestnuts bought from roadside stalls. If you too live south of the equator, chances are you’re with me on this.
I only had one memory of eating chestnuts (which wasn’t particularly enjoyable) and I certainly hadn’t cooked with them. What are they and what do you DO with them? I was asked along to a chestnut masterclass and was really keen to learn more about this mysterious carb-packed nut.
The class was hosted by Chestnuts Australia spokesperson and chef Stefano Manfredi who, having grown up eating chestnuts, shared simple tips for preparing them. We then broke into groups and under the close eye of Stefano, made two chestnut dishes.
Stefano explained how to roast and peel chestnuts (they have a hard outer shell and a furry inner skin so peeling them can be quite fiddly) and also how you can boil them. I got to peel a freshly roasted chestnut and try it – it was surprisingly dense and creamy. For the dishes we were making, we’d be using chestnuts cooked both ways.
When we moved on to the cooking part of the class, I happened to end up in the noisy fun group! Our team was guided by chef Patrizia Simone, author of cookbook My Umbrian Kitchen.
Our first dish was tiramisu with chestnuts. The richness of the chestnut means that thankfully for me, it doesn’t require any coffee.
After the session I got to chat with Stefano and ask his favourite way to enjoy chestnuts.
Stefano likes a hearty and slowly cooked soup with cannellini beans, sofrito (a sauce of garlic, onion, peppers and tomatoes), potatoes and chestnuts. To use chestnuts in a dessert Stefano makes a pan cake with chestnut flour and chestnut cream. For an additional protein boost, Stefano recommended adding chestnuts to mashed potatoes.
Coming up: I attempt a chocolate and chestnut cake. It’s easy to make and stupendously good.
vegeTARAian attended as a guest of IMPACT Communications.