Chestnuts – A Winter Delicacy

As the temperatures begin to drop and the days start to get shorter, this special delicacy appears on our plates once again. Whether during your obligatory Christmas market visit, or at home in the oven, the sweet and nutty taste of chestnuts makes for the perfect winter snack. The chestnuts only develop their sweet flavour upon cooking, once the starches they contain begin to caramelise.

Food Facts Food Facts

Chestnuts

Class

Castanea

Calories

200 kcal per 100 g

Nutrients

42.4g carbohydrate, 1.4g fibre, 1.5g fat, 2.9g protein per 100g

Season

fresh from September-March; tinned also available

Storage

refrigerate

Shelf life

fresh chestnuts should be eaten within 1-2 weeks of purchase

Chestnuts – Varieties and Characteristics

While the English language does not tend to distinguish between the two main varieties of chestnut, Switzerland does. “Maroni”, or “maronen”, are a special type of sweet chestnut that are shaped like a triangular heart and have a more intensive taste. They are red-brown in colour with a dark stripe. The chestnuts known as “esskastanien” are smaller in size and more rounded, with one slightly flatter side. Chestnuts are only ripe once they fall to the ground, so picking chestnuts directly from their tree is not advised. The nut itself is stored in a leathery, prickly shell and can easily be cracked open if it isn’t already protruding. Horse chestnuts are another very common form of chestnut but are inedible and have no use in the kitchen.

Chestnuts – A Nutritious Snack

A cheap and nutritious food, chestnuts used to be referred to as “the little man’s bread”. With just 200 calories per 100 grams of chestnuts, the nuts have a high energy content but their reputation as a fattening food is unfounded. Containing almost a third of the daily recommended intake of fibre, potassium, magnesium and numerous vitamins, thanks to their low fat content, chestnuts are the ideal nutritious snack food that won’t leave you feeling guilty.

Chestnuts – Release the Aroma

The most popular way of preparing chestnuts is roasting them in the oven. Before placing them in the oven, make sure to pierce a cross in the top of the nut. This prevents them from exploding because of the heat and also ensures they cook evenly. Place them in the oven at 200°C, with the cross facing upwards, for 20 to 25 minutes. If you place a tray with water in the oven at the same time as the chestnuts, they remain wonderfully juicy.

Chestnuts – Versatile and Delicious

Small amounts of chestnuts can also be heated up in the frying pan. A popular combination is chestnuts with a piece of cheese and a glass of wine, or simply with a pinch of salt and a knob of butter melting on top of the nut. It is also possible to boil the chestnuts for dishes such as soups, purees or creams, but they may lose some of their nutty and roasted flavour.

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