Here’s another autumn delight: chestnuts have arrived.
I prepare a feast of chestnuts and baked new seasons butternut. As they emerge from the oven, and I cut open the first chestnut, that freshly roasted smell brings a memory wafting in.
I am in Cornwall, on my first trip to England. My husband and I have rented a little thatched cottage for the winter. We are weary of travelling adventures and have decided to winter over in Leryn. He is going to write the Great New Zealand Novel, and I am going to – well, look after him I guess.
I took lots of walks, scuffing through the autumn leaves in the forests that were quickly turning bare. One day I scuffed my toes against something hard – lots of them. When I returned to the cottage, the pockets of my dufflecoat were full of chestnuts.
Not something I’d ever cooked or eaten before. But my trusty Penguin Cook Book that accompanied me on all our travels, had the answer: Chestnut soup.
First roast the chestnuts.
Then shell and skin them, and scoop out the flesh. No, don’t eat! Save every morsel for the next stage.
Which is to put the flesh through the mouli (and yes, I found one in the kitchen). It turned a discouraging purply-brown, but never mind. Sautee onions and other vegetables in a pan, add stock, and then the chestnut puree, and voila! you have the most nutritious and filling soup that you could ever wish to taste.
It was good, but hard work.
I did it once or twice, but what with typing out the Great Novel three times, cleaning, cooking, washing and all those things one did before Germaine Greer came along, I decided it was the kind of dish that really needed maids to make.
And so now, I just roast the chestnuts, and dig out the flesh and enjoy.