Roast sweet chestnuts are an autumn favourite. If you go for a lovely walk in the woods, you are likely to find sweet chestnut trees, and it is during October when they begin to drop their spiky green shells. Inside, are shiny brown chestnuts, a staple seasonal food for the forager. There’s more about how to identify sweet chestnuts here.
While gathering chestnuts might be a bit prickly for your hands, it is worth the effort. You could always take a pair of gardening gloves with you, of just use your boots to open the casings.
Once you’ve gathered what you need, you’re probably keen to start eating! Sweet chestnuts can be eaten raw, although inside the brown shell is a soft fur-like layer. If you don’t get it all off the nut, it can have a bitter taste. The fresh green nut however, has a pleasant sweet flavour.
The traditional way to eat sweet chestnuts is by roasting. Once roasted and peeled, sweet chestnuts can be used lots of culinary ways, from savouries like stuffing mixes to sweet cakes and biscuits. You can also grind down roasted chestnuts for a gluten free flour!
How to Roast Sweet Chestnuts
Here is my method of roasting chestnuts in an oven.
Score a line with a sharp knife on the flat side of the chestnut. This allows steam to escape while the chestnut is roasting. If you do not, chestnuts will explode in your oven! Some folks say to score an X on the flat side, but I find that a line works just as well and saves time if you have a lot of chestnuts to roast.
Arrange chestnuts on a baking tray and put in an oven at 200°C, for about 30 minutes. Check regularly.
Allow chestnuts to cool a little before taking off the shells. They can be fiddly to peel, so unless you want whole chestnuts, try squeezing the shell in half and scooping out the contents with a teaspoon.
The texture of a roast sweet chestnut is floury, making it excellent to use in many dishes.
Do you gather and roast sweet chestnuts in autumn? Please share you recipes here!