THAT OLD CHESTNUTMay 15, 2013
If ‘that old chestnut’ is used often enough, doesn’t the idiom itself become an old chestnut?
Never mind, I’m marking autumn and the cooler weather by eating record numbers of chestnuts. I can’t resist the sweet, nutty flavour and smooth floury texture. They’re low in calories and high in Vitamin C, and the bonus is the shell’s beautiful faux wood veneer pattern.
My own ‘old chestnut’ is 24 years old and lives happily in a winter coat pocket in my wardrobe. I bought the purple coat for my father’s funeral in Italy in December 1989 and after buying hot roasted chestnuts the same day from a street vendor, I saved the last chestnut in the paper cone and put it in my pocket. It’s been there ever since. I haven’t worn the coat for many years but occasionally put my hand in the pocket just to touch the smooth chestnut.
Various Italian community groups in Australia celebrate what was once known as “poor man’s food” with harvest events, and I was pleased to see Sydney restaurateur Stefano Manfredi recently host a chestnut and wine sampling outside his Balla restaurant. He tells me he’s the Ambassador for Chestnuts Australia and conducts masterclasses at Myrtleford, NE Victoria where they’re mostly grown.
I roast them under the griller (after scoring the shell with a cross to prevent explosions) and eat them neat, but also like them in cakes and desserts especially the traditional Tuscan cake made with chestnut flour, nuts and rosemary – Castagnaccio. DO NOT under any circumstances confuse them with ‘horse chestnuts’ which are bitter, mildly poisonous and sound like something that Colonel Potter from the TV series MASH would splutter loudly.
Let’s embrace chestnuts in Australia. Why not organise a sing-a-long next Christmas of Nat King Cole’s famous Christmas Song that begins ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire …’
Help spread the word. And don’t forget to SHARE, lest the First Witch in Macbeth (Act 1, Scene 1) takes revenge again and casts an evil spell on you.
Nigella Lawson does a great chocolate chestnut refrigerator cake
And for chestnuts with a kick, try this: Chilli Spiced Roasted Chestnuts via Not Quite Nigella
PS. I’ve just discovered a delicious Mario Batali recipe for Chestnut Crepes