I discovered roasted chestnuts when courting my wife Kim in the UK, in 1995. We had just visited the British Museum and spied a chestnut vendor, of which in the colder months there are hundreds all around the city of London. Having never tried them before, we bought a bag and found that they were just simply delicious, even though we ended up with charcoal all over our hands.
Back in Australia, these tasty morsels are a self serve option, and I rarely see a street vendor selling them. So when Kim’s friend gave us a bag I jumped at the chance to roast some up.
Now remembering the black, sooty fingers on my last encounter, I decided to scour the net in search of an easy, clean method of roasting chestnuts in our kitchen oven. I found one, and this is how I went about it.
Firstly I washed the chestnuts in cold water to remove any mould or dirt. Then turn your oven on and preheat to 220C or 425F.
Then with a sharp bread knife score the shell of the curved side until you just touch the nut. It is pretty easy and you can tell when you are through. I have heard some people use a cross, but I think this was much safer.
Put them in a pan and just cover with water, and bring to the simmer.
Once simmered, take them out and put into a roasting tray. The chestnuts have split open a little wider.
Set 15 minutes up on the timer. and pop into the preheated oven.
Once roasted, then cover with a clean tea towel and rest for another 5 minutes. This helps to steam them a little which helps removed the shell cleanly.
Remove the cover and start peeling. Any chestnuts that are black on the inside discard as they are rotten and taste foul (I know, I ate one thinking that it was just over cooked).
Only the creamy coloured ones are good for eating, however I don’t think it would hurt the chooks any if I gave the black ones to them.
The chestnuts peel so easily with this method, and look no black, sooty hands.
Here are a few that I peeled for myself and Ben. Kim had already scoffed her share by then! So delicious and so simple to cook. It took me about 30 minutes from start to finish, not including the eating which happened in only two minutes.
Luckily I kept some more aside for tomorrow night! Yum. So if you have a chestnut tree in your neighbourhood, scrump a few bag fulls, and roast them up. They are so nice on a cold evening.
I wish I could find a tree close by. The owners would be my next best friend.
Years ago I seen someone selling them at the markets, he offered me a raw one to try while munching on one himself…I figured they must be nice…so I tried one, but I wasn’t very keen on the flavour. I always thought they needed to be roasted anyway, but preparing them like this…I would give them another chance. Next time they have them at our green-grocer I’ll give them another try.
Thanks for showing us how you prepared them Gavin.
Gavin Webber says
You are most welcome Narelle.
Our daughter has a tree so we have heaps in the freezer still. Now that the cool weather is here and the wood stove is going we will try them in the oven. Last time I did them in the microwave. They were OK done that way, maybe a bit dry as I did them too long.
I got some in the city (Melbourne) a while ago from a street vendor near Myers YUM! I have also seen them occasionally at Vic Market but not for a while now (but then I haven’t been to Vic Market for a while either:).
I’m sure I’ve seen some trees in the city but I can’t remember where. There are a couple of places where you can buy them and a good place to start for information is
I planted a chestnut tree in my garden a few years ago and then due to circumstances moved to another house with my partner and kept mine for a rental property. The tenant was not interested in the garden at all so when she moved out (after three years) I went around to do a major, major clean up. And there was my little chestnut tree, growing up and producing nuts (pretty small yet). To say the outer pods are spiky is an understatement! Even with my trusty gardening gloves on I could feel how sharp they were and retrieving the nuts involved a couple of tools from my partner’s workshop! I prepared mine the same way you did (we must have seen the same website) and they were eaten pretty quickly! I now have two chestnut trees in my current garden as you need the second tree to cross fertilise. I have no idea where the other chestnut tree is with my first tree but it certainly did the trick. I’m looking forward to a larger crop next year (and generous tenants).
The Dandenong Ranges are full of Chestnuts trees on the footpaths (especially around Ferny Creek). I have seen people selling them on their footpaths up there so they may not be so keen for people just to help themselves (even though it is a public footpath!). Bit of drive for you though being the other side of town. Cheers Rebecca
Gavin Webber says
Cheers Becky, I might have to do a bit of scrumping when next in that part of the state!
We roast chestnuts every year, but because we are lucky and have a combustion fire, we wrap them in foil and put them into the coals. Then when they come out they smell so good you burn your hand trying to open them. Lol you just can’t wait!
Gavin Webber says
Jenny Mackinnon says
Just found your blogs thanks to The Age.
We used to live in Wandiligong, near Bright, which is where most of the commercially available chestnuts come from. Like, the Dandenongs, there are heaps of chestnut trees around the area dropping chestnuts, including a couple of big ones in the empty paddock next to the pub.
The local Italian families have been cooking with them for years. I asked my hairdresser, Lyn Scambeloni, how they use them in cooking, and one of the yummiest ways was instead of potatoes in casseroles. They taste more intense and gamey. Yum!
Gavin Webber says
Thanks Jenny, I like the sound of casseroles!
Alli @ High Country Gourmet says
Try the farmers markets. Over your way there is one on every Sunday in Flemington. Check the VFMA webpage for details. They’ll have the Alpine chestnuts mentioned above. Personally they don’t do a thing for me!
oooh I forgot to do a link to the Little Paris Kitchen its a tv programme over here. and she makes Marron Creme. and they have it in pancakes. with all your lovely ladies laying eggs this might also be a good recipe.
But my fav is defo the Gallettes layered with the chestnut creme/puree.
I also agree that I read somewhere that in really tough times Chestnuts have been used as a starch food instead of potatoes in stews etc(war food, my dad says). I have a friend at work that says she has recipes that are gluten free using chestnut flour, it is cheaper than ground almonds apparently.
Irene Jennings says
Thanks for the instruction. It seems so easy to follow. I’ll try this later.
Irene New Zealand Golden kiwifruit