The chestnut is the large brown nut of the castenea tree, the best known species being the sweet or Spanish chestnut and the Japanese chestnut. The American species, which once grew extensively in North America, was wiped out by a blight at the end of the nineteenth century. Chestnuts grown in Britain are small and hard to peel and therefore most of the chestnuts sold in the shops are imported from cither France or Italy. They are in season during the winter months.
Sweet and floury when cooked, chest-nuts are used boiled, pureed or roasted in soups and sauces, for stuffings and garnishings and as a sweet in cake fillings, puddings and ices. When steeped and cooked in syrup, they are called matrons
glaces, an expensive delicacy.
To remove the shells from chestnuts, make a small slit in the hard skin at the pointed end of the nut with a sharp knife.
Put the chestnuts into a saucepan and cover with cold water. Put the pan over high heat and bring the water to the boil.
Boil the nuts for 2 minutes and remove the pan from the heat. With a slotted spoon take out the nuts, two at a time, and peel them, removing the inner skins as well while they are still warm. If they become cool and difficult to peel, bring the water to the boil again but do not let it continue boiling. When all the chestnuts are peeled, put them back in the saucepan, cover them with fresh water and simmer gently over low heat for about 45 to 60 minutes or until they are tender.
Another way to peel chestnuts is to put them in an ovenproof dish with a little water after they have been slit and to
bake them in the oven preheated to a hot 425 °F (Gas Mark 7, 220°C) for 8 minutes. Peel and cook them as above.
Drain the chestnuts and serve them immediately. If you wish to glaze the chestnuts, reserve the cooking liquid. To glaze 1
pound of boiled chestnuts, in a small bowl, blend 6 fluid ounces of the cooking liquid with I½ tablespoons
of arrowroot until the mixture is smooth.
Pour the mixture into a large, deep frying-pan and bring it to simmering point over moderate heat. Simmer the mixture for
2 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the chestnuts to the pan. Stir and cook the chestnuts for 3 to 4 minutes or until they are thoroughly heated. Add more
of the cooking liquid if the glazing mixture is too thick.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir
2 tablespoons of butter into the chestnuts. Stir the chestnuts until the butter has melted. Turn the chestnuts into a warmed serving dish and serve at once.
To roast chestnuts, slit the pointed ends and roast in front of an open fire, under a hot grill or in the oven preheated
to hot 400°F, (Gas Mark 6, 200°C) for about 20 minutes or until the shells split open and the chestnuts are deep brown.