October 27, 2008

Three Years of Weekend Herb Blogging - Chestnut

Weekend Herb Blogging, celebrates its 3rd birthday, an event created by Kalyn from Kalyn's Kitchen. The new WHB Chief is going to be Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything at least once, she is going to do all the management of the event. So now back to this incredible 3 years of WHB and let's see with what we are going to celebrate the anniversary: this time we should blog about our favorite herb, vegetable or fruit.

As it is getting colder and colder outside, leaves falling from the trees, these are signs that it is time again for chestnuts! Can you imagine anything more lovely on a cold winter afternoon, while walking on the snowy streets, than a package of roasted chestnut? I adore the smell of the roasting cart and how the chestnut warm not only your hands, but your soul.
In my childhood my mom cooked me often chestnut, and I remember I could hardly wait until they were ready. At Christmas we always roast some at home and then the whole house is filled with the lovely smell of this gorgeous fruit.

The sweet chestnut was introduced into Europe from Sardis, in Asia Minor; the fruit was then called the 'Sardian Nut. It has been a staple food in Southern Europe, Turkey and southwestern and eastern Asia for millennia, largely replacing cereals where these would not grow well, if at all, in mountainous Mediterranean areas. Alexander the Great and the Romans planted Chestnut trees across Europe while on their various campaigns. The Greek army is said to have survived their retreat from Asia Minor in 401-399 B.C. thanks to their stores of chestnuts. Ancient Greeks like Dioscorides and Romans such as Galen, wrote of chestnuts to comment on their medicinal properties – and of the flatulence induced by eating too much of it. To the early Christians chestnuts symbolized chastity. Until the introduction of the potato, whole forest-dwelling communities which had scarce access to wheat flour relied on chestnuts as their main source of carbohydrates. In some parts of Italy a cake made of chestnuts is used as a substitute for potatoes.

The fruit can be peeled and eaten raw, but it then can be somewhat astringent especially if the pellicle is not removed.

The other way of eating the fruit which does not involve peeling, is to roast them. Any method of cooking requires to score the fruit beforehand, else the flesh expands and the fruit explodes. Once cooked its texture is similar to a baked potato, with a delicate, sweet, nutty flavour.
Chestnuts can be dried and milled into flour, which can then be used to prepare breads, cakes, pancakes, pastas (it is the original ingredient for "polenta", known in Corsica as
"pulenda"), used as thickener for stews, soups, sauces..., . The flour can be light beige like or darker . It is a good solution for long storage of a nutritious food. Chestnut bread keeps fresh for as long as two weeks.

A fine granular sugar can be obtained from the fermentation of the juice, as well as a beer; and the roasted fruit provides a coffee substitute.

The nuts can also be eaten candied, boiled, steamed, grilled, roasted or fried (fritters), in sweet or savoury recipes. They can be used to stuff vegetables, poultry, fowl and other edibles.They are available fresh, dried, ground, canned (whole or in puree).

Candied chestnuts (whole chestnuts candied in sugar syrup, then iced) are sold under the French name marrons glacés or Turkish name kestane şekeri ("sugared chestnuts"). They appeared in France in the 16th century. Chestnuts are picked in autumn, and candied from the start of the following summer for the ensuing Christmas. Thus the marrons glacés eaten at Christmas are those picked the year before.

Chestnuts' taste vary slightly from one to the next but is somewhat sweet and certainly unique. (source:wikipedia)

I baked a chestnut cake today, that it great with a cup of coffee and a ball of vanilla ice cream sprinkled with caramel sauce. Here you find 2 other chestnut recipes.

150 g butter
150 g cane sugar
3 eggs
200 g flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

zest of a 1/2 orange
150 g cooked chestnut
3 tablespoons chesnut liquer

Preheat oven to 200
°C. Whisk butter and sugar for about 10 minutes until fluffy. Whisk in eggs one by one. Stir in flour, baking soda, cinnamon, orange, chestnut liquer and chestnuts. Pour batter in a buttered form and bake for 50-60 minutes.


Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love chestnuts and that cake looks very good! Yummy!



Kalyn Denny said...

Chestnut cake sounds delicious. I only had chestnuts once. Simona from Briciole sent me some. I roasted them and meant to blog about it, but my friends and I ate them all before I even remembered to take a photo!

Soli Deo Gloria said...

Chestnuts are becoming more available here in Manila near December. We usually buy it roasted already. I'm sure this cake has the wonderful chestnutty aroma. :)

Anonymous said...

interesting survey and cake ! I just bought chestnut flakes but I have no idea what do with them.

Maggie said...

I love the flavor of chestnuts but find them too starchy. I think a the cake sounds like a perfect recipe to try. It looks delicious!

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