Leading chef urges Australians to try chestnuts in three simple ways
By: Chestnuts Australia Inc
Australians are leaving chestnuts off the shopping list simply because they don't know how to prepare or cook them. In fact 1 in 3 Australians have never tasted a chestnut.
Research shows that Australians have only tried chestnuts an average of 2.5 ways, usually as a snack or as an ingredient in a restaurant dish. 95 per cent of Australians have eaten savoury chestnuts and only 40 per cent of Aussies have ever tasted chestnuts as part of a sweet dish.
The highly versatile nut has now gained support of leading chef Stefano Manfredi who says the best way to try chestnuts is in three simple ways. "It's time to dispel the myth that chestnuts are hard to prepare and show home cooks that they are one of the most splendid ingredients to be grown locally in Australia," says Manfredi, chef and restaurateur Balla and Manfredi at Bells.
"This winter, I am challenging Australians to try chestnuts in three simple ways. Score and roast chestnuts for a delicious pre-dinner snack. Boil, peel and add chestnuts to soup to thicken and flavour them as an alternative to potato or grill, peel and puree with sugar and water for a sweet alternative to jam for your toast at breakfast," says Manfredi.
"If chestnuts are unchartered territory, try pairing them with familiar food such as lamb cutlets, roast chicken, or combine with ricotta and honey for a delicious breakfast," continues Manfredi.
Chestnut recipes call for the nut to be prepared in a variety of ways. Some recipes require chestnuts to be boiled which keeps the nutty flesh soft and pale, whilst others require grilling or roasting which enhances the nutty flavour and gives the flesh a richer colour. "The texture of a cooked chestnut is like that of a baked potato, soft and crumbly," says Manfredi. "And the taste is unique and nutty but subtle, which is why is makes such a great accompaniment for sweet and savoury dishes," continues Manfredi. "My favourite way to enjoy chestnuts is as a sumptuous stuffing for roast turkey breasts. Roughly chop peeled chestnuts and combine with breadcrumbs, butter, garlic, parmesan, parsley and Italian mustard fruits, season and fill turkey breasts generously. It's winter comfort food at it's best," says Manfredi.
Although chestnuts are thought of as being a European produce, Australia has a booming chestnut industry, producing approximately 1200 tonnes a year, the majority of which comes from North East Victoria.
"In Europe, the smell of chestnuts permeates the streets of Paris, Rome and London during winter thanks to hundreds of chestnut sellers who roast them outside in giant pans. Australians can try scoring a few chestnuts and popping them on the barbecue or under the grill as a delicious pre-dinner snack," says Manfredi.
Chestnuts are grown on trees and harvested in autumn, with the season running from March to July, during which time chestnuts are readily available from supermarkets, and independent grocers, in the refrigerated fruit and vegetable section. "We have had excellent growing conditions this year, with good winter and spring rainfall. This has been ideal for growing perfect fruit and we are expecting a plentiful crop to hit the shelves. Chestnuts love cold wet winters and warm dry summers which is why they grow well in areas such as North East Victoria, the Dandenongs outside Melbourne, in the Blue Mountains and around Batlow in New South Wales, in the Adelaide Hills and Manjump in Western Australia," says Jane Casey, spokesperson for the Australian chestnut industry.
Innovative and delicious Australian chestnut products including frozen peeled chestnuts, puree, flour, meal and chestnut flour based gluten free cake mixes are also available from specialty food stores. "As growers we have long enjoyed chestnuts in all sorts of dishes and this season it's time to shed the mystery and share the secret with the rest of the country," concludes Jane.