Chestnuts Australia is working with leading Chef Stefano Manfredi to promote the season and he’s developed three delicious new recipes. Here’s one of them:
Hearty Chicken with Chestnuts and Mushrooms
250g fresh chestnuts (or 200g frozen peeled chestnuts)
8 dried shiitake mushrooms
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
3cm-long piece of ginger, peeled and cut into thin slices
1 onion, peeled, cut in half and then cut into ¼ cm wedges
8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
8 chicken drumsticks, bone in, skin on
5 tbs dark soy sauce
125ml dry sherry
1 tbs caster sugar
2 pinches salt
1 whole star anise
½ tsp cracked 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.
Cut chestnuts in half and reserve. Place dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot water and soak for 30 minutes. Drain, remove stem, cut each mushroom in half and reserve.
Heat a large, heavy pot and add oil. When it begins to smoke add ginger and onion. Stir for 15 seconds and then add chicken thighs and drumsticks. Keep turning chicken until skin is golden making sure onions and ginger doesn’t burn. Add soy sauce, half the sherry, sugar and salt. Stir well so the soy has completely coloured the chicken. Add the star anise, pepper and the water and stir well.
Turn down to a simmer and place a lid on the pot. Keep simmering for 15 minutes occasionally turning the chicken. Add the remaining sherry, the chestnuts and the mushrooms. Mix in, cover and simmer gently for another 15 minutes.
Remove from heat and let rest for 10 minutes then serve with steamed rice.
Chestnuts are grown on trees in areas in Australia such as North East Victoria, the Dandenongs outside Melbourne, Batlow and The Southern Tablelands in New South Wales, in the Adelaide Hills and Manjimup in Western Australia.
Harvested in autumn, the season runs from March to July, during which time chestnuts are readily available from supermarkets and independent grocers in the fresh produce section. Other Australian Chestnut products such as frozen peeled chestnuts, chestnut puree, meal and flour are available from specialty food stores.
“The chestnut harvest this year is looking like it will be another good crop, even though some growing areas have had dry conditions,” says Jane Casey, spokesperson for the Australian chestnut industry. “The benefit of this is that this year the flavour of chestnuts will be more intense and sweeter.”
“Make the most of fresh chestnuts when they’re in season and use chestnut puree and frozen peeled chestnuts at other times of the year. Choose firm shiny, fresh nuts and once home, treat them like vegetables and store them in the refrigerator.” Casey says.
“Chestnuts are not native to Australia and the first trees were thought to have been introduced with the influx of migrants during the Gold Rush of the 1850s. Many Australians have fond memories of buying chestnuts hot and fresh in Europe or Asia where street vendors roast chestnuts over open fires, but when they return home they are unsure how to include them in their own cooking. We want to show Australians how to prepare and enjoy this wonderful local ingredient.” concludes Casey.