On the weekend a friend who came to stay bought me a bag of locally grown chestnuts, I decided to roast then purée them.

Peeling chestnuts requires patience; it involves removing both the shell and the bitter-tasting layer of thin brown skin. It is easier, but just as time-consuming, to peel chestnuts if they have been cooked and are still hot. To prevent chestnuts from bursting when cooked, use the point of a knife to make a cross-shaped incision on the rounded side of the shell.

Chestnuts can be peeled in one of three ways. (If they are not completely cooked before they are peeled, be sure to finish cooking them afterward or they will be difficult to digest.)

The first method is to simply remove the shell and the skin of raw chestnuts with a small, very sharp knife. The second method involves piercing a hole in each of the chestnuts, then roasting them until they burst open. Allow them to cool before peeling them. The third option is to boil the chestnuts after making an incision in the shell. In this case, they should be peeled while still hot. I chose the roasting method with the skins on. It wasn't difficult but was time consuming and without the many hands here staying for the weekend I might have gotten completely bored very quickly, but I handed over the laborious task to my friend Annie, who decided she needed extra champagne to compensate for tall the extra work she was doing.

After roasting and cooling just enough to handle them, Annie rpoceeded tor emove the skins and scrape the nut meat into a bowl. I then placed all the nut meat ina  saucepan and covered it with water and boiled it for a few minutes to further soften it. If you don't do this, it might be indigestible as the roasting may not be enough to cook the nutmeat.

I then placed the nutmeat and the water it was boiling in, into a blender and added enough icing sugar to taste, a little marsala and some cream and pureed it.

I used it as a base under a chocolate pannacotta I had made for dessert and topped it all with a raspberry and strawberry coulis which I also made.

I have enough leftover for this weekend and am going to serve it in a meringue shell filled then topped with Chantilly Cream, known as a Mont Blanc.

Here's a few other uses for chestnuts you might like to try…

  • Chestnuts can be boiled, steamed, braised, or roasted. They are added to soups, stuffings, and salads.
  • Peeled whole chestnuts are canned in water or syrup, candied or crystallized with sugar (marrons glacés), preserved in alcohol, and used to make sweetened or unsweetened jams and purees.
  • Chestnuts are ground into a flour that is added to cakes or made into flat cakes (polenta), pancakes, waffles, porridge, or bread.
  • Chestnut puree is used to flavour ices, puddings, pastry creams, Bavarian cream, pies, and the like.
  • In Europe, chestnuts are traditionally served with game and poultry, especially during the Christmas and New Year season; in France and Italy, they are served as an alternative to other vegetable side dishes like potatoes.
  • In Sardinia and Corsica, chestnuts are the main ingredients in several special dishes.