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Telling the quality of a chestnut is perhaps easier than with most fruit. Chestnuts have a very high water content – fifty percent. Fresh chestnuts will still fill the shiny brown outer skin, were as when they have been picked longer you will start to feel a noticeable separation/space between the outer skin and the nut inside. The chestnut is a food that should be purchased at its best, and consequently at it’s most expensive. If you’re going to use them within a week or two, and provided that you have bought them in premium condition, wrap them tightly in several layers of plastic and refrigerate. For longer storage, buy the best freeze them in spring water, thawing them out slowly in the fridge. The best of the season will be over the next two to three weeks.

The chestnut is an ancient food, used in many cases as a flour substitute. Dried, they were used by herders and soldiers alike. Taken on journeys where food sources were uncertain, they would be boiled in water and milk, often goats’ milk, until softened and eaten in a type of flavourless, but substantial soup. The Austro–Hungarian Empire and the French have argued for centuries as to who stole what recipe from whom – their combined repertoire for desserts made with chestnuts is impressive.
Excellent recipes for savoury and sweet chestnut dishes in New Larousse Gastronomique published by Hamlyn and any older Hungarian cookbook.

Peeling Chestnuts
microwave method
Chestnuts can be peeled in a number of ways, but they must always have a slit put in them so that they don’t explode. They can be dry roasted in a hot oven, simmered in milk, but if you have a microwave, three to four at a time, depending on their size for one minute on high is by far the easiest way. With this method, the brown outer husk and blonde inner skin comes away easily leaving the chestnut meat. Peel them whilst they are still warm. If the light brown inner skin does not come away you will have to blanch them in boiling water, in the same manner as your would for almonds to remove the last of it.

Conventional Peeling Method
If you don’t have a microwave, you can roast them in a 200°C oven until they start to split open, cook them in water, or a mixture of water and milk until the skins are softened. Again they must be peeled whilst still hot. The microwave method is by far the best and you can usually, with care, get whole chestnuts from their skins.

Convert your best nut torte recipe to a chestnut torte remembering to soften the chestnuts by cooking them gently in equal quantities of milk and water. Drain them well and process to your desired texture. You can convert any recipe you may have for using tinned chestnut puree, by using an equal weight of chestnuts that have been cooked in milk and water and then pureed to a fine paste in a blender. The difference in taste is worth the effort!

Chocolate and Vanilla Chestnut Roll
One of my 60s favourites, remember the plain and chocolate chestnut roll – 250g very soft unsalted butter, creamed with 250g icing sugar, then mix in 500g vanilla chestnut puree click here for recipe, finally working in 200g melted but cool dark chocolate. This must be kept chilled, but makes and excellent filling for chocolate pastry and can be finished with a chocolate glaze.

Chestnut Mocha Liqueur Coffee
The ultimate chestnut/mocha liqueur coffee and the perfect start to Easter breakfast – per person, gently cook 3 peeled chestnuts until soft in 100ml very strong coffee, 100ml milk and 20 – 30g caster sugar, add 50ml cream, 30ml cognac, bring up to the boil, remove from the heat and add 50g Callebaut dark chocolate buttons. Stir until the chocolate is dissolved, heat through again then puree the chestnuts with a stick mixer. Serve topped with whipped sweetened cream, dusted with unsweetened imported cocoa.

Recipe the late Lucia Rosella, Lucia’s Pizzeria, Adelaide Central Market, Australia.

Chestnuts in the savoury kitchen
Chestnuts, used in savoury cooking, have some of the magical properties of a truffle, seeming to enhance the other flavours.
With all the following recipes, it is assumed that the chestnuts have been peeled and skinned.

Definitely freeze 1 kilo for the stuffing for your Christmas turkey or goose.

Chestnut, prune and wild dried mushroom stuffing
Chestnut, prune and wild dried mushroom stuffing

Roman Chestnut Soup
For a slightly sophisticated Roman version of the lowly chestnut soup – per person, sauté 4 chopped chestnuts with 100g finely chopped onion in 25ml Joseph extra virgin olive oil, season very lightly with a little salt and pepper, add 250ml hot chicken stock, bring up to the boil then add 30g rice pasta or other small pasta. Continue cooking until the pasta is tender, thicken the soup with an extra large egg yolk mixed with 50ml cream.
This is a very thick soup, and there is reference to it being made so thick that it was left to drain and swell further in a cloth overnight and then cut into pieces like bread or a cheese, not unlike the moulded pasta dishes of today.

Chestnut Sauce
As a sauce for veal or poultry – per person, fry until golden 4 – 5 large chestnuts in 25g of butter, add 100ml of the appropriate stock and cook on high heat, shaking the pan constantly until the stock is reduced by half and the sauce is glossy and emulsified.

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Peeling Chestnuts

the people behind Galaxy Guidesfood editor and publisher
Ann Oliver

champagne editor
Kaaren Palmer


Jan Bowman
Political comentator, briliant photographer…farmers’s market obsessed…Brisbane based.

Olivia Stratton Makris
Masters of Gastronomy, NYC, Spain and constant assistance and editorial suggestion…Adelaide based.

Michael Martin…Northern America 2016.Photographic assistance Kym Martin…Adelaide based.

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copyright © text, recipes and images Ann Oliver & Kaaren Palmer 2016.