Favourite Five Chestnut Recipes

Across Europe and the US, people have been out and about on the streets, frantically shopping for presents and visiting the sales. Many will be fuelled with piping hot chestnuts, roasted in barrels and sold by street vendors. The piping hot nuts are a Christmas tradition across the northern Europe and beyond. Chestnuts are a great ingredient for our home cooking too; whether in sweet or savoury dishes, they are a seasonal highlight.

Chestnut & Sage Soup – Sauté half an onion in a little oil and butter until soft and translucent. Add a few chopped sage leaves and a finely chopped clove of garlic, before 100g cooked chestnuts, a couple of chopped large potatoes and 1/2 litre of vegetable stock. After 30 minutes of simmering, whizz with the blender, then add 25ml of milk, reheat and serve topped with a few sliced chestnuts and crispy sage leaves.

Sweet Chestnut Purée – In a saucepan, combine 300g nuts, 220g sugar and 250ml water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 25-35 minutes until the majority of the liquid is evaporated. Remove from heat, add a little vanilla paste, then strain the nuts (reserving the liquid). Whizz the nuts in the food processor until smooth, before adding the syrup slowly to get the right consistency. Chill and use to fill your next sponge cake.

Chestnut, leek, apple and Stilton crumble – This is based on a great recipe from Leiths Vegetarian Bible. Sauté an onion and a couple of leeks, stir a little flour into the mix, cook for a minute, before adding 300ml of stock. Add a 225g pack of chestnuts, a little thyme, and bring to the boil, simmering for a 15 minutes until the chestnuts are tender. Peel, core and quarter a couple of apples and add them and the chestnut mix to an ovenproof dish. Make a crumble from 110g flour and 55g butter, adding some Stilton into the crumble once made. Top the chestnut mix with the crumble and bake for half an hour at 190°C.

Chestnut Stuffing – A simple traditional stuffing for the festive bird (or just to have on its own). Mix a good sausage-meat with chopped chestnuts, an egg, some breadcrumbs, a little fresh sage, salt and pepper. Cook in the roast, or in a dish separately for half an hour.

Quince & Chestnut Frangipane Tart – Although a version of this tart was included in the Favourite Five Pear recipes; this chestnut version is great. Swapping the usual ground almonds for ground chestnuts gives it a lovely nuttiness and the perfumed quince is perfect for a cold winter’s evening.

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Favourite Five Pear Recipes

Our little pear tree has been a real success this year. So small that there is no way it could support a partridge for a Christmas card photo shoot, it has had a really good crop of beautiful fruit. I’ve come to pears late in my life; as a child I always saw them as grainy, crunchy and not entirely appealing, but as an adult I’ve grown to appreciate the moment in time when a pear is a perfect sensuous fruit. There is little better than a perfectly ripe, juicy, pear just sliced and eaten; but they’re a brilliant ingredient too and appear in some of the family’s favourite dishes.

Roasted Roots, Pears and Lentil salad – Roasted pears are a warm, sweet, caramelized delight, and combined with earthy vegetables like beetroot and carrot, and nutty green lentils, make a super winter salad. This salad is an adaptation of the salad posted the other day, using pears instead of apples and blue cheese instead of goats cheese.

Gluten-free Pear and Chocolate Tart – This has become a big hit with my son and is made by both his grandmothers whenever he goes to visit, indeed one of them was the first to make it and it has been passed around the family and enjoyed by all. Having made a gluten free pastry case, the filling to this tart is made of quartered pears in a chocolate almond. To make the sponge, combine 125g ground almonds, 125g softened butter, 95g caster sugar and two eggs, before mixing in 185g warm melted chocolate. Place the quartered peeled pears in the blind baked pastry case, then pour in the filling. Bake for 45 minutes at 190°C.

Pear, Red Cabbage and Walnut Slaw – Fruit in slaws is a real favourite of mine. I love how apple adds a contrasting sweetness to my beetroot and carrot slaw. This version is a nod to the classic Waldorf salad. Combine shredded cabbage, thinly sliced pears, sliced celery and some roughly chopped toasted walnuts. Add a splash of cider vinegar to some mayonnaise, season, then add to the fruit and veg. Make sure the dressing is distributed evenly, then serve.

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Poached Pears – Such a simple dessert, but one which really enhances the flavour. Combine 3 cups white wine, 3 cups of water, a knife tip of vanilla paste and 3 cups of sugar to make a poaching liquid. Warm the poaching liquor, peel the pears and place in the saucepan. Use a piece of baking parchment to form a lid and poach for 10-15 mins (depending on how ripe you fruit is). When soft, take off heat and serve immediately, or pop in the fridge with the poaching liquid until needed. Super as a pudding, but equally good on top of your breakfast porridge.

Pear Frangipane Tart – I love frangipane, and it goes brilliantly with pears. In the past I have used ground chestnuts instead of the usual almonds, giving it a slightly sweeter nuttiness. Use just pears, or combine with poached quince for a more autumnal decadent tart.frangipane tarts (2)

 

Autumn Fruit and Chestnut Frangipane Tarts

One of the things I love to do is collect chestnuts from the countryside. We forage around under the sweet chestnut tree, and on finding the glossy brown nuts, break open the shells to get at the sweet nuts. I’ve noticed them piled high outside our local grocers too – for those times when I can’t forage for them.

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Although I love the nuts fresh, I wanted to use them cooked and use them to flavour a dessert. So, after roasting and peeling I whizzed them in the food processor to create a seasonal alternative to ground almonds in a frangipane. Combined with some poached winter fruits they made a sophisticated tart inspired by an Angela Hartnett recipe.

What you will need
Pastry
225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
110g butter
110g caster sugar
3 medium egg yolks, lightly beaten
Frangipane
125g butter, softened
125g caster sugar
2 eggs
125g ground chestnuts (roasted and peeled)
1 tbsp plain flour
Poached Pears and Quince
250g caster sugar, plus 2 tsp extra
2 good-sized pears and 2 quince
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
3 cloves
1/2 lemon
2-3 strips thickly pared orange zest
1/2 vanilla pod

First make the pastry by adding the butter, flour and sugar into the food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the egg yolks into the mix slowly, until the dough comes together in a ball – you might need to add 1 teaspoon cold water if the dough is very crumbly. Wrap the dough in cling film and pop into the fridge for 30 minutes or so. To make the frangipane filling cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy (or whizz in the food processor). Gradually beat in the eggs, one at a time, then fold in the ground chestnut and flour. Mix well and chill until needed. To poach the pears and quince put the sugar in a saucepan, pour in 500ml water and place over a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Peel the fruit and add to the pan, along with the cinnamon. Squeeze the juice from the lemon into the pan and add the squeezed lemon and orange zest. Split the vanilla pod in half, scrape out the seeds and add to the pan with the pod. Add some more water to just cover the pears. Simmer for 25 minutes, then remove the fruit to a plate with a slotted spoon. Set aside for 15 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

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Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan170°C/gas 5. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry to a circle large enough to line the tart tin. Don’t worry if it breaks up, as this is a very short, crumbly pastry – you can just patch it together in the tin , making sure it is even all over. Trim off any excess pastry and spread the frangipane evenly on top. Cut the fruit in half lengthways and, using a teaspoon, scoop out and discard the core from the centre. Cut each piece of fruit into slices and arrange on top of the frangipane filling. Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour, until the pastry is golden and the filling is set (I made smaller tarts, so baked for a sh0rter period). Sprinkle with the extra 2 teaspoons caster sugar and bake in the oven for a further 15 minutes to finish off the browning. Cool in the tin slightly, then remove and transfer to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature with a dribble of cream.

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A Little Rhubarb and a Portuguese Custard Tart (pastéis de nata)

When I visit cafés, I often look longingly at the pastries and wonder whether I could produce something similar in my own kitchen. One of my favourites is the Portuguese custard tart – Pastéis de nata. So, when this week I was left with a half a block of puff pastry and a grey day in which to bake, I set about having a go. Bought puff pastry is so easy to use, and it wasn’t too long before a mini batch of these luscious, egg custard filled, crispy tarts.

What you will need
Butter, for greasing
150ml double cream
250ml milk
Zest of one lemon
1/4 tsp of vanilla bean paste
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons cornflour
125g caster sugar
150g chilled ready-made puff pastry
Flour, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5 and grease a 12-hole mini muffin tin. The mix is enough for 24 mini tarts, so you could make a dozen larger muffin size ones instead. Put the cream, milk, vanilla bean paste and lemon zest in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then take off the heat and set aside. Next whisk the egg yolks, cornflour and sugar in a bowl until it comes together in a paste. Pass the milk mixture through a fine-mesh sieve into the bowl of egg paste. You need to be quick and thorough at mixing the cold egg paste with the warm milk mixture to prevent you creating a sweet scrambled eggs. once mixtures are combined, pour back into the saucepan and heat over a moderate heat until it thickens – do not let it boil.

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The custard made, roll out the pastry on a lightly floured work surface as thin as you can manage (the thinner you mange it, the more crispy the pastry). Roll the pastry up into a long sausage shape and cut it into 24 discs. Roll out each disc to about 6cm in diameter and press them into the holes of the muffin tin. Before filling with the custard mix, use a fork to prick the bases with a fork and fill with the custard mixture until half full. Finally, place the tarts in the oven for about 18-20 minutes until browned on top.

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As a child we often had rhubarb with our custard tart, so as we still have a bit if rhubarb at the plot, I decided to serve the little tarts with a bit of roasted rhubarb. To sweeten it I used a combination of a bit of sugar and some runny honey, roasting the chopped rhubarb for 20 minutes until soft, but not falling apart. The sharp taste of the rhubarb contrasts well with the silky sweet custard, but the tarts go equally go well with an espresso.