Chestnuts, Lovely Chestnuts

Roasted chestnuts being sold by street vendor
Image via Wikipedia

Always make me think of a Dickens novel with someone selling “roasted chestnuts, lovely chestnuts” on the street, but have you thought of chestnuts as an alternative starchy food?

Caroline (yet again being very helpful, thank you) mentioned she has them as an alternative to spuds sometimes so I thought I would look into them a bit more closely.

Nutritional Value

Chestnuts are a low fat nut so don’t have the same monounsaturated fat benefits but they are pretty carb-rich making them filling and a good provider of useful calories, especially when they are boiled as they increase their calorie level significantly then. Thirty grams of dried or roasted nuts contains 1g fat and around 70 calories mostly from carbs. They are the only nut to contain Vitamin C, which is useful to know too. They are also useful suppliers of manganese, molybdenum, copper and magnesium as well as the usual B vits you get from nuts.

From an allergy point of view, they are the same family as acorns, hazelnuts and beech nuts so if you know you have issues with those, be careful.

Chestnuts in the UK are not normally thought of as a starchy veg, but in Europe, they are often served roasted, boiled or mashed – a bit like mashed sweet potato. You could mix them in with other root veg mash or roasties for a change. You can of course also use chestnut flour to make your baked goods, or add some to your normal flour for a change of nutrient value or use ready-made chestnut puree in recipes like cakes and nut roasts (watch the tin ingredients if buying in).

How To Use Them

You can get boiled chestnuts in tins. Caroline says the French make in Sainsburys and those in Waitrose seem OK for her:

I find the canned chestnuts in Sainsburys (yellow can) are a marvellous starchy filler – have checked with the French producer and there appears to be no risk of cross contamination with them.  Waitrose also do frozen pre-peeled chestnuts which are cheaper per 100g

I have a tin in the cupboard but have yet to try them. (It takes me a long time to try things as I have to wait until Thursday/Friday in the week so I can be well for patient care; I can be ill on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday and my reactions are now taking 2 days – whereas it was 4 so some improvement – yay!)

For boiled, you can serve them as they are, heated up, or boil your own and mash them like mashed potatoes. To boil your own, blanch some shell-on chestnuts for a few seconds in boiling water until they split, allow to cool, then peel. Cover and cook for 20-30 mins in stock or water, then serve. To mash, best done in a food processor unless you like it chunky.

Other ideas: chop and add them to salads, sprinkled on soups, use as a stuffing ingredient in veg, meat or fish, toss as a veg in a stir-fry. A nice dessert, I am told, is to add honey (or other sweetener) and vanilla extract (remember no alcohol version) to cold chestnuts and puree. I think that sounds a bit like Ready Brek and am going to have a go!

To roast your own chestnuts is simple too. Pop some on a baking tray in an even layer, cover with foil and roast at a high temperature for about 20-30 minutes. Shake them regularly and make sure they don’t burn. If you want them nice and brown, take the foil off after 15 mins or so. Slip the skins off whilst warm, or if you have let them cool, simply reheat them in the oven a bit and they will come off easily again. Remove the shell and the thin whitish papery skin too for best flavour.

Ok, new ingredient to have a go with. Good luck.

4 Replies to “Chestnuts, Lovely Chestnuts”

  1. good luck testing! I know how you feel about that, I always test on my off days as well ^^ Just managed to get a spat of butter (by accident) on my lips tho, and altho I washed it off immediately, my legs are already covered in hives. Thats promising for the next days…

  2. Another nice chestnut idea is to steam or saute them with sliced leeks, mushrooms and cranberries, some garlic and grated orange peel spice it up a little more.

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