Monday, October 20, 2008

How to cook chestnuts

First, I wanted to show you some gratuitous pumpkin porn. But now it's onto the chestnuts, I promise.

These pictures of mine are TERRIBLE. But maybe if you shut your eyes a bit and squint at them, they will come slightly into focus? No? Oh well. Humour me.

Here are some chestnuts, fresh from the grass. You can tell they're chestnuts because they have that tuft at the top - unlike conkers (horse chestnuts) which are fully rounded.

Officially, you should slit each one before dropping it into a pan of cold water. I don't bother, thus risking eighty-nine miniature explosions that will send soft shards of chestnut flying all over my kitchen. Luckily, I am not the nominated Kitchen Cleaner in our house, so I don't let miniature explosions bother me too much. So - drop them in, and remove any chestnuts that float to the top. They're bad'uns.

Bring rapidly to the boil, and boil until the nuts feel tender. If they are freshly fallen, this could take just 5 minutes - yours could take longer, so keep an eye on them.

Now remove a few nuts from the pan and put them on your chopping board, ready for the hell to begin. They are easier to peel while hot, so it's best to tackle a few at a time. You will want to clear the nearby rooms of any family members who have done nothing to deserve your wrath.

So - see that brownish lump on my chopping board (brownish background)? It's a chestnut, after boiling. It does not look very different to the way it did pre-boiling, except that I have slit open the top with a knife and peeled away the outer (glossy brown) and inner (the paler brown) skin. Only another eighty-eight nuts to go. Best put on some soothing music - that'll help with the impending chestnut rage...

After what feels like six years, you will be looking at a small heap of the nuts that are now your least favourite nut in the entire world. Your back will ache. Your knife will be dull. And all appetite for these lovely little scamps will be lost. But that's okay. Because you saved a couple of pounds and a trip to the grocer. Now don't you feel good about the world?

Okay. So it will take you some time to feel good about the world. Until then, put these peeled monsters into the fridge or freezer, and try to forget about them. Or throw them immediately into a Mushroom & Chestnut Stroganoff, and destroy the evidence by mouth. Yum!