Chestnut memories

by | Apr 15, 2012 | Uncategorized | 8 comments

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.



  1. Ruth G

    We’ve been roasting chestnuts too – a wonderful autumn treat.

  2. Hilary Melton-Butcher

    Hi Juliet – I love adding chestnuts into stuffing for the turkey, and from a tin I’m afraid making it into a chestnut cream mousse ..

    But those early days of trying to cook everything .. and chestnuts are not easy – but smell wonderful ..

    Enjoy .. cheers Hilary

  3. Max

    I think we get our chestnuts a liitle later here down aiuth, but i’ll keep my eyes open for them now i know there about. We had chestnut everything when we were in the dordogne a few years ago, bread, cake etc, but i found them quite bland compared to good old roasted, or stir fried with brussel sprouts and bacon x

  4. juliet

    *Ruth, glad you are enjoying them too.

    *Hilary – you are so right about ‘those early days of trying to cook everything’, and now we can start with a tinned version. Anything that helps. Chestnut cream mousse sounds delicious. When I was living in Paris I tried creme de marron, but it was very time consuming.

    *Max, so you’ve been in France too, with ‘chestnut everything’. You’ve right though, freshly roasted is best of all. The stir fry combination sounds worth trying.

    Thanks for your comments Ruth, Hilary & Max.

  5. lifeonthecutoff

    This was so enjoyable to read, Juliet. I recall you commenting on making chestnut soup back in November when I was roasting chestnuts to stuff our Thanksgiving turkey using as my grandmother did. It was my first time – and my last. Lots of work, but, as others say, the aroma of chestnuts emanating from the over is so wonderful.

  6. juliet

    Penny, I had forgotten that, so thanks for the reminder. Yes, we do these things once and then no more! But that smell is delicious.

  7. Hotly Spiced

    I have never roasted chestnuts. We don’t see them to often in Sydney. I would love to learn how to cook with them and I would love to experience the taste of ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire’.

  8. juliet

    Charlie, keep your eyes skinned and maybe you will find some over the next month or so. I can imagine you adding chestnuts to your repertoire of fine dishes.


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