There's nothing quite like delicious roast chestnuts at Christmas time - whether you're going to use them to make stuffing, or eat them on their own, they make a delicious addition to a festive feast. For a winter snack there’s nothing nicer than hot chestnuts straight from being roasted on an open fire, peeling off the blackened skin and sprinkling the sweet inner flesh with a little salt and eating them while still warm.
Chestnuts have to be cooked before they can be eaten, the outer reddish brown skin is quite leathery and can’t just be cracked off like other nuts. To remove the skin they can be roasted in the oven, grilled or boiled in a pan for a few minutes. The skin can then be peeled off to reveal the inner kernel. Between the outer skin and the pale kernel there is a thin brown inner skin which also needs to be removed.
Cooked, peeled chestnuts are also delicious tossed with Brussels sprouts to serve on Christmas Day, or chop and use them in a tasty stuffing with sausagemeat and herbs to go with turkey, pork, chicken and game birds such as pheasant. Peeled chestnuts fried in a little butter add a lovely flavour and texture to a rich beef or venison casserole when added just before serving.
For desserts they can be cooked and pureed and mixed with melted chocolate and cream to make a rich filling or icing for cakes and meringues. Sweetened puree is available in cans and dried chestnuts, which need to be soaked before using, are useful for adding to soups.
Love festive cooking? We've got loads more lovely Christmas recipes right here.
Top Tip for buying your chestnuts
When buying fresh chestnuts, choose ones that feel heavy for their size and are firm to the touch. 450g of fresh chestnuts will yield about 350g when peeled. Frozen peeled chestnuts (available from Waitrose) or vacuum packed ones are a great time saver if you don’t have time to peel fresh ones.
Top Tip for boiling chestnuts
If boiling chestnuts, only cook a few at a time because as they cool down the skin will be harder to remove. When cooked chestnuts have a delicious sweet flavour and tender floury texture which goes well in both savoury and sweet dishes.
- 700g fresh chestnuts
Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/Fan 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Using a sharp knife cut a small slit through the skin of each chestnuts.
Place on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 15-20 mins until the skins split and start to blacken. When cool enough to handle remove the outer skin and thinner brown skin.
They can be eaten as a snack like this with a sprinkling of salt or chopped and used in recipes.