You can find sweet chestnuts throughout fall season. Fresh chestnuts must always be cooked before use and are never eaten raw, because of their tannic acid content. You need to remove the chestnuts from their skins by either boiling or roasting them. For both options, first make a small incision in the skin or you’ll have a house full of chestnut shrapnel as they will explode. If cooking over an open fire, keep one whole as when this explodes you know the others are done. Once cooked, peel off the tough shell and the papery thin skin underneath. Peel the nuts whilst hot.
Health benefits of sweet chestnuts are:
- The are a good body builder food and recommended in cases of emaciation (wasting away of body tissues).
- They aid in the care of the teeth and treatment of pyorrhea.
- The leaves are used as remedy in fever. It is used in convulsive cough such as whooping cough and in other condition of the respiratory organ.
- Chestnut can help repair microscopic holes and leaks in blood vessels and capillaries; it can also help make the vein wall elastic therefore preventing swelling and damage.
Chocolate and chestnuts are a heavenly combination; the French celebrate this with Bûche de Noël, a chocolate log filled with a chestnut purée served at Christmas, or try Mary Cadogan’s Chestnut truffle cake. This rich, gluten-free cake, except being healthy, it makes a perfect dinner-party dessert.
Chestnut truffle cake
- 400g cooked chestnuts
- 100g caster sugar
- 100g butter, chopped into cubes
- 100g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids, broken into pieces
- 3 tbsp milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tbsp cognac
For the topping
- 100g dark chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solids
- 25g butter
- 1 tbsp single cream, plus extra to serve
- icing sugar, to decorate
Put the chestnuts in the food processor with the sugar, then process until fairly smooth. Put the butter and chocolate in a pan with the milk, then gently heat, stirring, until they have melted to a smooth sauce. Stir in the vanilla and cognac. Add to the chestnut mix in the food processor, then whizz again until fairly smooth.
Line a lightly buttered small loaf tin with cling film, then pour in the chestnut truffle mix. Smooth the top, then cover the tin with cling film. Chill for 24 hrs.
To serve, turn the truffle cake out onto a flat plate or board. Peel off the cling film. Gently melt the chocolate, butter and cream for the topping, then spread over the top and sides of the cake. Return to the fridge to set. Will keep in the fridge for another 6 days. Decorate with a dusting of icing sugar. Serve cut into thin slices with a little single cream poured around (cold vanilla custard is also very good).