Five ways with chestnuts

Chestnut, chicken and pork lettuce cups.
Chestnut, chicken and pork lettuce cups. Photo: Supplied

1. Healthy snack or starter (chestnut, chicken and pork lettuce cups)

Chop 150g fresh, peeled chestnuts into 1/2 cm pieces. Soak 4 dried shiitake mushrooms in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes.

Remove mushrooms from water, discard stems and cut shiitake into 1cm dice. Heat 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Add shiitake, chopped chestnuts, 2 cloves minced garlic and 2 tbsp finely grated ginger.

Add 200g pork mince and 200g chicken mince and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until meat changes colour. Add 4 finely sliced green shallots and mix. Add 1 tbsp each of shao hsing wine, oyster sauce and dark soy sauce and stir for one minute.

Add 1 cup bean sprouts and 1 tsp sesame oil to the mince and heat through. Remove from heat and season to taste. To serve, spoon mixture into eight iceberg lettuce leaves.

2. Autumn salad (roast chestnut, pumpkin and ricotta salad)

You will need 300g fresh, peeled chestnuts (or equivalent frozen, peeled).

Roast chestnut, pumpkin and ricotta salad.
Roast chestnut, pumpkin and ricotta salad. Photo: Supplied

Peel and de-seed 500g Queensland blue pumpkin (or similar) and cut into 2cm cubes. Place pumpkin, peeled chestnuts and 1/2 cup fresh sage leaves in a baking dish. Toss with 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, some salt and pepper. Place in a preheated 180C oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Slice each chestnut into 5-6 slices. To serve, stack cubes of pumpkin in a pile on each plate, spoon total of 150g fresh ricotta around plates and scatter the sliced chestnuts on top. Use sage leaves as garnish and any pan juices over the top as dressing. Finish by sprinkling 1 tbsp roasted sesame seeds over salad.

3. Hearty stew (chicken, chestnuts and mushroom stew)

You will need 250g fresh chestnuts (or 200g frozen peeled chestnuts).

Peel fresh chestnuts, then cut nuts in half. Soak 8 dried shiitake mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes, then drain, remove stems and cut each mushroom in half.

Heat a large, heavy pot and add 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Peel and thinly slice a 3cm-piece of ginger. Add ginger to pot with 1 onion (peeled and cut into 1/4 cm wedges). Stir briefly then add 8 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) and 8 chicken drumsticks (bone in, skin on).

Keep turning chicken until skin is golden, making sure onions and ginger don’t burn.

Add 5 tbsp soy sauce, 65ml dry  sherry, 1 tbsp castor sugar and 2 pinches salt. Stir well until soy completely colours chicken. Add 1 whole star anise, 1/2 tsp cracked pepper, 250ml water and stir well.

Reduce to simmer and place a lid on the pot. Simmer for 15 minutes occasionally turning the chicken. Add another 60ml sherry, the halved chestnuts and the mushrooms.

Mix, cover and simmer gently for another 15 minutes. Remove from heat, rest for 10 minutes then serve with steamed rice.

4. Sweet, nutty spread (chestnut, ricotta and honey cream)

Place 600g chestnut flesh into a food processor with 1 tbsp honey, 1 tsp vanilla essence and 2 tbsp cold water. Pulse to a smooth paste.

Place chestnut paste into a bowl and mix with 250g fresh ricotta.

In a separate bowl, whip 150ml pure cream and 1 tbsp castor sugar to soft peaks.

Fold cream into chestnut ricotta and serve on thick toast or pancakes.


5. Lavish dessert (creamy chestnut tiramisu)

You will need 500g fresh chestnuts or 350g frozen, peeled chestnuts.

Peel fresh chestnuts. Place 8 chestnuts aside and slice them thinly.

Place remaining nuts in a small pot with 250ml milk, 3 tbsp brown sugar and 1 tsp vanilla essence. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes until chestnuts are very soft. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Place nut mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth and creamy (add more milk if necessary). Beat 3 egg yolks with 100g castor sugar in a bowl until mixture is pale.

Beat 3 egg whites in a separate bowl until they form fluffy peaks. Mix the yolk-sugar mixture together with the 300g mascarpone, and then fold the whites in gradually.

Mix 4 tbsp cocoa powder with 100ml of water to make it easier to dissolve, then add another 300ml water. Soak 32 Italian sponge fingers in the chocolate water, dipping them two at a time for a second on each side.

Arrange a layer of 8 soaked biscuits on the bottom of a high-sided ceramic dish (about 16cm square). Spread on a layer of the mascarpone mix, then dollop on some chestnut puree, spreading with a spatula. Repeat process until all biscuits and mascarpone have been used, finishing with a layer of mascarpone.

Scatter the sliced chestnuts over and sprinkle with 1 tsp cocoa.

According to chef and restaurateur Stefano Manfredi, an ambassador for Chestnuts Australia.