“Many Australians aren’t familiar with chestnuts, despite the fact that we produce 1500 tonnes of them each year here in our own country. I grew up eating chestnuts, and despite what some people think, they’re incredibly versatile and simple to prepare,” says Chef Stefano Manfredi, of Osteria Balla Manfredi at The Star and Manfredi at Bells restaurant at Killcare.
Although chestnuts are typically eaten in savoury dishes, Manfredi suggests getting creative with this versatile nut.
“Chestnuts are a fantastic all-round ingredient. They are delicious sliced into salads or boiled as an alternative to pasta or potatoes. You can even puree boiled or roasted chestnuts to stir into soups to add thickness. Chestnut puree also lends itself beautifully to desserts like tiramisu, tortes and cakes,” he says.
“The texture of a cooked chestnut is like that of a baked potato, soft and crumbly. The taste is unique and nutty but subtle, which is why they work so well for both sweet and savoury dishes,” continues Manfredi.
“Chestnuts pair well with fresh ricotta cheese and baked pumpkin for a late summer, early autumn salad,” says Manfredi. “Boil scored whole chestnuts in water for five minutes and peel while still warm. Stack cubes of oven roasted pumpkin on a plate, spoon ricotta around and scatter sliced boiled chestnuts on top. Garnish with sage leaves and a sprinkling of sesame seeds and you’ve got a wonderful, quick meal.”
Easy Roast Chestnut, Pumpkin and Ricotta Salad
Serves 6 as a first course.
300g fresh chestnuts (or equivalent frozen, peeled fresh)
500g Queensland Blue pumpkin or similar
½ cup fresh sage leaves
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs roasted sesame seed
150g fresh ricotta
Salt and pepper
Score chestnuts by cutting a shallow cross on the flat side with the tip of a sharp knife and place in boiling water for 5 minutes till tender. Peel as soon as they’re cool enough to handle. They’ll peel better when still warm. Make sure both skin and fine inner pellicle are removed.
Peel and deseed pumpkin and cut into roughly 2cm cubes. Place pumpkin, peeled chestnuts and sage in a baking dish. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in a preheated 180C oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Slice each chestnut into 5-6 slices. Plate by stacking cubes of pumpkin in a pile on each plate, spoon ricotta around and scatter the sliced chestnuts on top. Use the sage leaves as garnish and any pan juices over the top as dressing. Finish by sprinkling sesame seeds over.
Chestnuts are also a delicious snack that you can eat on their own. Why not grab some more and roast them on the BBQ or under the grill