Preparing chestnuts

Oh I do wish our staple crop was easier to transform into an edible delight.

If we had more than four walnut trees I would be tripping la, la, la to the kitchen with a basket of nuts and armed with nothing more than a hammer to crack the shells.


Give yourself a bit of time and accept that you are going to have a gnarly thumbnail for the duration of the season.

Step one. Cut the beasts in half with a heavy knife.

This is going to make peeling easier. But also give you a quick check to see whether they are riddled with worms.

Or one worm. Yes. True. But the grubs are small and you can usually spot the pinprick on the shell if they are inside.

Then it’s a quick rolling boil for about five minutes.

Excellent action shot. I actually steamed the camera lens the first time I tried to snap this with one hand while removing the nuts with the other.

Leave to cool a teensy bit.

Then peel.

And there’s the tricky bit. They are incredibly hot! And really painful to peel. But you have two layers to remove. The easy to peel outer, and the pesky thin skinned inner.

Leave them too long to cool and boy do they cling.

I have learned over the years that I am very messy at this stage. And I fail to remove the nuts well.

I get some that almost ressemble what you might buy in a jar.

But frankly, I do better at the rubble. I just use a small teaspoon and hoik out the nut flesh from the skins.

And that is what I find best to add to any veg dish that needs a bit of oomph.

We had a great dinner last night with friends. The last barbecue of the season. And I among other dishes I served a large platter of the just-picked runner and French beans blanched; with a scattering of pomegranate seeds, chestnut rubble, olive oil and a slick of pomegranate molasses over the top.


So divine you would think I was clever enough to take a shot to show you how great it looked.

Alas. No. I was having way too much fun to stop and snap before I served.

But let me leave you with a favourite shot of the chestnut season. Prepared and boxed up cooked chestnuts, ready to go into the freezer and be pulled out when needed.

I think that might do for the rest of winter.

But something tells me there will be more picking and preparing and rubble mess in the next few weeks while the nuts litter the mountain. And all the farms around.

It is a very addictive past time. Even if you have chestnut burrs in your digits and a permanently sore right thumb.