Monday, 30 November 2015


Let me tell you about the first time I roasted chestnuts. Back in 2001 I was studying in Germany. You know Germany - notorious for their Christmas markets which run for at least a month in the running up to the biggest winter holiday. On these markets you can
find everything - specialty cheeses, fudge, salamis, various breads, backfish (Oh, backfish! So yummy and delicious. It is battered fish but unlike the fish and chips here it does not drip oil whilst you eat it and it does not come with the chips!), Christmas baubles and so many many more .... But back to the chestnuts - they seemed to have been everywhere. The smell was divine. I bought some and I absolutely loved them. I still remember how hot they were as I was peeling the shells off.... They were nutty, full of flavour and I wanted more. I remember thinking they were so expensive (it was probably just me being a student on a budget) so when I saw them being sold in a local shop a few days after that I jumped at the chance to get some. I turned the oven to high, popped them on a tray and in they went.... Until about 15 minutes later they started popping.... You see, I had no idea you are supposed to cut the ends like a X to let the steam escape. It took me days to clean my tiny oven. Needless to say I did not eat any chestnuts that day - they did not cook through at all so I had to bin them all. For the next few years roasted chestnuts were a Christmas treat to me - I would only buy them from a Christmas market vendor.
Fast forward few years. I am living in London and one winter day my husband comes back from the shops with a bag of raw chestnuts. He had remembered how much I loved them and thought I could give roasting them another go. He went online and found out that the steam needs to escape. He cut them for me, popped in the oven and they were really tasty. I loved him just a little bit more that day. (I probably don't say it enough but he always knows what I want and what I need, sometimes it feels like he knows me better than I know myself. If you haven't done so already, read all about how he surprised me for my birthday earlier this month).
Ever since that day I have been buying chestnuts regularly when in season. Over the last two years I have been soaking them in warm water for anything from 20 to 45 minutes. This helps when splitting the ends with a knife. Also chestnuts have a thick layer of skin underneath the shell. The soaking helps it detach from the nut.
Yesterday morning I roasted my first batch of chestnuts for the season. With my Yankee candles glowing, Christmas music playing and Christmas tree decorating it was a morning full of laughter and fun. The roasted chestnuts came out of the oven and the kids were ever so excited to have some. It was a great day in Desi in the Kitchen's house.

Recipe and method:

All you need is a bag or 2 of raw chestnuts

Put them in a bowl of warm water for around half an hour. Preheat the oven to around 180C. With a sharp knife split the ends to help the steam escape during cooking. Put them in a single layer in a roasting tin and pop in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
How to check if they are ready? With your oven glove take one out and squeeze it. If you feel the nut detaching from the shell, they are ready. Leave to cool for no more than 5 minutes and peel the shells off. You need to do this whilst the chestnuts are still warm. Eat. Enjoy.

What are your tips for roasting chestnuts? What other foods put you in a Christmas mood?

Desi in the Kitchen

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