Simple Provisions

Food does not need to be fancy to be celebrated

Roasting Chestnuts and an Autumn Salad

Roasting chestnuts wasn’t as fun as I thought it would be when I stopped at the farm gate on a beautiful stretch of gumtree-lined road to pick up a bag for $3. Like broad beans, chestnuts herald a new season and only hang around for a short time. This is key, as they both rely on you to forget how much effort you had to put in to prepare them last year. Unlike broad beans, shelling chestnuts is a full-contact sport that carries risk of puncture wounds and burns. But if you manage to avail the sweet flesh of a chestnut from its burning shard of shell, you will be rewarded with the full earthy flavour of this nut.

The beauty of eating seasonally and locally is that the produce you’re presented with at the market tends to work well together. The rust-coloured pears, crisp dandelion leaves and mild, crumbly blue cheese that I picked up at the market were very content to be paired with the sweet chestnuts from the nut farm. It doesn’t take much effort to follow nature’s plans for your dinner table; just buy what looks good, prepare it simply and be rewarded with the flavours of the season. This salad is autumn fare, no doubt.

Roasting Chestnuts and an Autumn Salad

I enjoy a salad that combines fruit and cheese to create a sweet and savoury dish (like fig and mozzarella or peaches and feta). Blue cheese is a bold ingredient that brings a fruity, spicy note that can be overpowering. It is the flavour-punch in this dish, but choose one that is quite mild so as not to dominate the more quietly spoken flavours of the pear and chestnuts. If you like your hands and don’t wish to slice them with burning chestnut shells, you can happily use walnuts instead. The sweetness of the pear in this salad is counterbalanced with a crisp, bitter green. I used dandelion, roughly sliced, but chicory would also work well.

The flavours of this salad are in such harmony with an autumn afternoon, and the nuts of my labour were appreciated. We’ll see if I forget the effort it took to relieve the chestnuts of their shells and go back for another bag of nuts next year.

Roasting Chestnuts and an Autumn Salad

How to Roast Chestnuts

Pre-heat oven to 180C/350F. With a sharp pairing knife, make an incision around the middle of the nut, cutting through the shell and a little bit into the flesh. This will stop the nut exploding in the oven. Place the slit nuts onto a rimmed baking tray and bake for 35 minutes. The shells will open up during the cooking process, allowing you to pull off the outer shell and remove the skin from the sweet flesh of the nut. Shell the nuts while they’re still hot, as it gets harder the cooler they are.

Roasting Chestnuts and an Autumn Salad
Roasting Chestnuts and an Autumn Salad

Chestnut, Pear, Blue Cheese and Dandelion Salad

Ingredients

  • Several slices of crisp, fresh red pear
  • A chunk of mild blue cheese, crumbled
  • Enough bitter leaves like dandelion to sit nicely on the plate
  • A handful of roasted, shelled and peeled chestnuts (or lightly toasted walnuts)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon dijon mustard

Method

To prepare the chestnuts (skip if using walnuts):

Heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Saute chestnuts with salt and pepper, stirring, until the chestnuts are golden brown and a bit crunchy on the outside, about 4 minutes (cook too long and they’ll go hard on the inside, which you don’t want).

To make the dressing:

Place all the ingredients into a small jar with a lid and shake.

To assemble the salad:

Arrange the salad ingredients on a nice plate and drizzle the dressing over the top.

 

21 thoughts on “Roasting Chestnuts and an Autumn Salad

  1. This recipe inspires me to make a salad for dinner tomorrow night. Chestnuts are a lot of work though. It’s been ages since I had some.

    1. Amelia says:

      Dolly, I needed you in the car with me to tell me how much work they were! Walnuts would be much easier.

  2. Kathy Cameron says:

    A lot of work but soooo good….. Spring in Utah, how am I going to find any!!!

    1. Amelia says:

      :) this one might have to wait six months for you.

  3. Louisa says:

    I had the exact same feeling toward chestnuts last year but I was making Monte Bianco, the Italian dessert mountain. They are delicious, though I’m not going back this year! I was thinking of trying the vacuum sealed ones. Have you tried those? Not quite as lovely but so much easier! Also, would you mind sharing where the nut farm is that you’ve been visiting? I’m often in the Kyneton area and I’d love to visit. Thanks in advance!

    1. Amelia says:

      I haven’t tried the vacuum sealed ones, worth a shot though, especially for something called a dessert MOUNTAIN! The farm was between Daylesford and Glenlyon on the Daylesford-Malmsbury Rd. It was down a dead-end side road, marked with a sign for chestnuts. Can’t remember the name of the farm, and can’t find it on Google, sorry!

  4. laurasmess says:

    Amelia, your blog is absolutely beautiful! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to find you… but now I’m excited, as a I have months worth of archives to explore! I love hot roasted chestnuts. I haven’t had one for at least ten years, since I stopped spending Christmases with my grandparents in London. There’s just something beautiful about that warm, earthy and savoury-sweet smell… and the ‘pop’ of the shells if you throw them directly into the fireplace. So delicious. Thanks for this beautiful recipe. I’ll definitely be trying it, when I get my hands on some chestnuts! xx

    1. Amelia says:

      Thank you for the lovely kind words Laura! I hope you enjoy it.

  5. sitepointlouis says:

    Ha! I might just have to do the chestnut thing on the weekend now :)

    1. Amelia says:

      I thought of you when I saw the sign on the side of the road! And you were right: so much more romantic in *theory*.

  6. I had never experienced the meaty, earthy wonder of chestnuts before I came to Europe — that first year was marked by many happy lunches in the form of a small paper bag of roasted chestnuts. Thanks for giving me the nudge to gather/roast them myself this autumn!

    1. Amelia says:

      To be honest Valerie, I think outsourcing your roasting is a much easier way of enjoying chestnuts! But you probably should do it once. :)

  7. Hi Dolly and Amelia, chestnuts are sweet and very tasty, the trick with roasting is to firstly buy a good commercial variety, De Coppi Marone, Purtons Pride or Bouche de Betizac, you will find that if you roast them in the oven on ‘fan assisted grilling’ at 230 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes they will just pop out of their shells. You can also try roasting on the BBQ.

    1. Amelia says:

      Thanks Deanne. I love the idea of doing them on the BBQ!

  8. Viswa says:

    Wow, what a beautiful recipe. I have never eaten chestnuts

  9. Tina Evans says:

    I definitely want to try this. I love chestnuts and would have never thought to put them in a salad.

  10. ambradambra says:

    I’m usually a “sweet chestnut” fan but this recipe sounds great – I’ll try it. I also wrote my chestnut memoir on my latest blogpost: http://ambradambra.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/that-old-chestnut/

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