“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”. Those immortal words from the famous Nat King Cole song always pop up around the middle of November and indicate the beginning of the build-up to the Christmas season and all that goes with it!
In Ireland we don’t really have a tradition of eating roasted chestnuts, but like everything else, the world is becoming a smaller place and we can now get our hands on anything, if you really want it.
Edible chestnuts do not grow in Ireland. Most of the chestnuts that are eaten around the world are imported from Japan, China, Spain, and Italy. They are known as ‘Marrons’ in France.
I got my local veg-man to get me a bag of sweet chestnuts to try out and did some research on how to cook them. They taste different from what you’ll expect and also, don’t be disappointed if many of them break up when you’re taking them out of the shell – that’s happens in real life!
How to Roast Chestnuts without an Open Fire
Heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6.
1. Using a small, sharp pointed knife, cut a cross into the flat-side skin of each Chestnut. This helps to prevent the chestnut from exploding while cooking.
2. Drop them into cold water, to soak, for 15 minutes. This helps them steam and stay moist.
3. Place the Chestnuts on a roasting tin, cut side up and bake until the skin splits open and the inside is tender, about 20 minutes.
4. Put the cooked chestnuts in a dry towel and press gently to crush open the shell. Peel the shell back and eat them straight away!
If they start to get cold they become very hard to peel. Only a few of mine came out looking perfect and that was because I peeled some very carefully! You can pop the chestnuts back into the oven and warm them up a little again, to help peel them.
You can serve them out in paper bags or newspaper cones if you wish. You can also boil chestnuts for 15 minutes and peel them before you add them into your Christmas Stuffing. Give them a go either way!
You can find my favourite stuffing recipe here: 10 Tips for the Perfect Turkey & My Stuffing Recipe