'Tis the season to eat chestnuts! Fa la la la la, la la la la! Hear ye! Hear ye! Chestnuts are shit hot! Tell your mother! Tell you father! Tell your brother from another mother! Huzzah!
That pretty much sums up how I feel about chestnuts. If you thought my enthusiasm couldn't get any greater, try listening to my hyperbole when I use pre-prepared chestnuts. No peeling! No roasting! All the the flavour with none of the fuss. Embrace your inner lazy git - she'll thank you for it when she wakes from her mid morning nap.
So the pre-cooked chestnuts fit the bill nicely when I decided a quick salad was on the menu one lazy Saturday. Chestnuts are a killer ingredient in stuffings, and the flour makes a particularly good Italian cake. But a nicely baked chestnut goes quite well with a sharp dressing, a meaty piece of cured meat and some peppery greens. Salad it is.
It's a fairly light salad. Light in textures, but don't be fooled, this one packs a serious calorie punch. It's all good. Go for a walk, have a small serving. Ha! Yeah right. No, chestnuts are pretty rich little nuggets of goodness, but aren't all the best things in the kitchen? We haven't worried about this before, so let's not worry about it with a salad. Wimp.
I know in most European countries, chestnuts are associated with Christmas. The southern hemisphere is what Christmas in July was made for. Our Christmases are hot and chestnuts are totally out of season. Using chestnuts in a stuffing at Christmas is crazy for two reasons: you're shipping them from halfway across the world and then popping the oven on to 200ºC for a few hours in stinking hot weather. No can do.
Come mid winter, roasts and dense cakes are all the rage. But sometimes you get a bit of roast fatigue, or go into a cake coma. Enter winter salads stage left. The plus side to this salad? It takes you all of 5 minutes to whip up.
Chestnuts are the best way to ring in winter. I know it should be all about roasting them over an open fire, but it doesn't inspire the same romantic flavour when you're forced to use the old Vulcan gas heater. So stick with a packet job if you need. I won't judge if you don't. And I'll still sing to the heavens. Try and stop me.
2 rashers thickly cut pancetta
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt and pepper
10 pre-cooked chestnuts
1 1/2 cups rocket
sourdough, to serve
Slice the pancetta into thick lardons. Slice the shallot thickly into rounds and saute with a splash of olive oil until golden brown. Chop the chestnuts in half and quickly saute with the pancetta and shallot.
To make the dressing, mix the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Pour over the rocket, add the pancetta, shallot and chestnuts and toss to dress well.
Serve with a slice of fresh sourdough.