I hear you...I can see that puzzled look…It’s Fruity Friday…Are Chestnuts a fruit?
YES, they are!
If we want to be correct and proper most nuts are the seeds of a fruit, but true nuts such as chestnuts, acorns and hazelnuts are fruits in and as of themselves…Peanuts are the exception as they are legumes and therefore technically a vegetable…A source of plant-based protein they have many health benefits…
Chestnuts to me are synonymous with winter and Christmas my memories are my father putting the chestnuts in the ash pan under the fire they are also of toasting crumpets and toast over an open fire and if you got too close getting burnt legs all red and mottled… Health and Safety would have kittens now and get all freaked out methinks…
So today I am going to share a few of my favourite dishes using chestnuts…
Not only are they delicious but their health benefits are enormous… Dr Mehmet Oz, MD said…Chestnuts are the only low-fat nuts, containing just 1 gram of fat and a little less than 70 calories per ounce of dried or roasted nuts. Additionally, chestnuts are the only nuts that contain vitamin C; in fact, just 3 ounces of chestnuts supply about 45% of the recommended daily amount of this vital antioxidant nutrient. And they’re a great source of dietary fibre, which helps lower blood cholesterol levels. When chestnuts are in season, you can roast them in the oven. If you’re pressed for time, you can buy them prepackaged and ready to eat any time of year. You should eat up to 3 ounces of chestnuts a day to maximize their benefits.
This dish is a recipe I have had for a long time… These little cakes are very tasty and lovely with some steamed vegetables or a salad. This mix makes 6 rice cakes. If you haven’t made risotto before please don’t let it put you off. As long as your liquid is hot and you let each addition of stock become absorbed into the rice before adding more stock it is a doddle.
So much easier than most people think it is certainly don’t let the disasters on the TV cooking shows put you off.
Risotto Cakes with Chestnuts and Brussel Sprouts.
These lovely risotto cakes also are vegetarian and the first time I made them was at Christmas for a veggie friend and they loved them.
I also think meat-free dishes have come a very long way…Don’t you? There is so much more on restaurant menus and I also think home cooks are more adventurous with flavours.
These risotto cakes certainly fit the bill even if you are a die-hard meat-eater.
- 8 oz risotto rice
- 8 oz Brussel sprouts finely shredded
- 6 shallots finely chopped
- 4 oz unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 2 oz cooked, shelled chestnuts, chopped finely
- 1 3/4 – 2 pints of hot vegetable stock
- 3 tbsp flour
- 2 large eggs beaten
- 8 oz fresh breadcrumbs.
15-20 sage leaves for garnish, a little flour for dusting and a pinch of paprika.
Oil of your choice for deep-frying.
Line 6 x 4-inch cooking rings with cling film.
Cook the shredded Brussel sprouts in lightly salted water for 1 minute. Drain set to one side.
Melt the butter in a pan and cook the shallots for 2 mins until soft but not coloured. Add the rice and stir until the rice is evenly coated with the melted butter.
Stir in 1-2 ladles of the hot vegetable stock at a time and stirring until the rice has absorbed the stock before adding your next ladles of stock. Do this until the rice is just tender but with a little bite. This will take about 25 minutes as does any risotto.
Add the cheese and season being careful of the salt as both the cheese and the stock contain salt. Gently stir in the chestnuts and the sprouts. If the mixture seems too thick add a little more stock.
Divide your mixture between the cooking rings. Leave to cool and then chill until set and firm.
When the rice cakes are nicely chilled remove the rings and the clingfilm.
Double dip the lightly floured rice cakes in egg and then breadcrumbs…repeat. You may need to reshape the cakes.
Heat the oil until a small crouton of bread turns golden within a minute and dust the sage leaves with the flour and paprika and fry for 1-2 minutes…set aside on kitchen paper.
Deep fry the cakes for 5-7 minutes until they are golden and crisp. It is probably best to do these 2 at a time while keeping the cooked ones warm in the oven.
Add some deep-fried sage leaves to the top of the cake served with your Christmas vegetables it is wonderfully tasty and makes a lovely Christmas main course for anyone who isn’t eating turkey.
Wandering around a food market in Wanong, Northern Thailand…and losing myself among the sights and smells of beautiful tempting Thai food. I spied a few fruits and vegetables which were unknown to me and this one. Although once I knew what it was then I recognised the taste ….without knowing the name I was puzzled I sort of knew the taste but didn’t connect the dots…lol
We were talking and looking for these a few weeks ago when we were thinking about what to cook for dinner and reminiscing about the Chinese food we remembered having years ago with these crunchy water chestnuts in..you never got many just a few slices… I was then looking in the shops at imported goods to see if I could them and no luck…Then there they were the other day right under my nose and fresh ones….strange world…When your thoughts take you unexpectedly to what you were looking for.
Usually available in speciality groceries or supermarkets, they should be washed thoroughly and peeled with a sharp knife, especially if to be eaten raw. At this point, adding a few drops of lemon juice keeps them from turning brown when steamed or sautéed.
Once peeled, they’ll only remain fresh in water that’s changed daily for two to three days.
Chinese Chicken with Water Chestnuts.
- ½ lb of chicken breasts or pork finely sliced.
- 1 tbsp dry sherry
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp of cornflour or tapioca flour
- 3 tbsp sesame oil
- 2/3 cloves of garlic crushed
- 2 tbsp of spring onions
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger grated or Julienne
- 2 cups of water chestnuts peeled and sliced ( tinned are fine) and can be found in most Asian sections of supermarkets.
- 1 cup of bamboo sliced (optional) or bean sprouts.
N.B…I have started using arrowroot instead of cornflour it is tasteless and gives a glossy sauce and where corn flour has a slight taste and cloudy appearance arrowroot is glossy and clear. It is a great thickener and can easily replace cornflour.
Arrowroot powder is fast gaining in popularity in the western world as people are looking for substitutes and alternatives to cornstarch either because they have corn allergies/sensitivities or they want to avoid anything GMO and laden with pesticides.
Mix the sherry, soy sauce and arrowroot together, set to one side.
Heat the oil in a pan and add chicken /pork and stir-fry for 2 minutes add garlic, spring onions, ginger and bamboo and stir-fry for a further 3 minutes or until meat is cooked.
Add water chestnuts and stir-fry I minute then add the arrowroot mix and stir-fry for another minute or two until juice thickens slightly add beans sprouts if using.
I always add my bean sprouts if using add the very end as I like mine crisp and just cooked.
I also add other vegetables if I have a few odds and ends like broccoli or mange tout, baby corn.
Serve immediately with steamed rice or noodles…
Who doesn’t love stuffing at Christmas??? If it contains chestnuts I am happy…
Stuffing Mix with Chestnuts.
Now stuffing mix is hard to get here and because it is imported also expensive. I have tried various stuffings in the past with limited success…we didn’t like them!
I found this recipe on a blog the other week and it sounded great…It had bacon in it…
Picture this…. I thought I had all the ingredients .. wrong!….no bacon and nearest shops were a way away so I put my thinking cap on and tweaked the recipe and it turned out brilliant…..Replaced the bacon with Minced Pork, The stuffing mix( which) I had not heard of became just breadcrumbs. Chestnuts …tick…
- 200 gm of Minced Pork
- 6 oz of breadcrumbs
- 3 oz finely chopped chestnuts
- 5 shallots finely sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic
- Bunch of Thai celery chopped finely. Which when chopped did take on more of a celery smell.
- Freshly made chicken stock.
- Salt, fresh ground pepper.
- Tbsp dried Sage
- Fresh rosemary.
- 2 tsp Dried Thyme.
Heat pan with a glug of olive oil and 1 oz butter. Add shallots and garlic cook 2/3 mins until soft but not coloured add mince and celery and chestnuts if using cook for a further 4/5 mins. Add breadcrumbs gradually moistening mix with spoonfuls of stock as required.
The mix should be fairly thick but soft so you are able to form balls.
Add herbs and season with salt and pepper.
Allow to cool slightly and then form into balls.
If you want to freeze them then do it at this stage. Pack into a freezer box and all ready for Christmas day.
If not then cook in oven until lightly browned and crispy approx 20/30 mins on 180 degrees. I didn’t need to add any additional fat as the oil and butter already incorporated in the stuffing mix kept them moist and not too dry but if required add more oil.
I generally don’t like meat in stuffing mixes but the amount I added was small and gave a nice texture and flavour but wasn’t the overriding taste.
This is now going to be my Christmas stuffing.
This lovely dessert is a popular Thai dessert made from water chestnuts. It is called Ta-Ko Haew…..Sweet Water Chestnut with Coconut Custard.
- For base:
- 1/2 cup rice flour
- 2 tbsp tapioca flour.
- 1 3/4 cup water.
- 1/4 cup pandan leaf juice. This gives lovely soft green colour which is often seen in Thai desserts.
- 8 oz can water chestnuts or fresh if you can get them.
- 1/3 cup sugar.
- For topping:
- 1 can coconut milk or again fresh coconut milk if you can get some.
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 cup rice flour
- 1 tsp salt.
Dice the chestnuts very small.
Mix both flours and sugar together add water and pandan leaf juice. Mix well. Put in pan and bring to the boil, stirring it until the mixture thickens add the diced water chestnuts and bring back to the boil then remove from the heat.
Spoon the mixture into small individual foil cups. Or if you have banana leaves then they would be traditionally wrapped in a banana leaf or on the markets they are sliced into squares and displayed.
Now make the topping.
Mix the coconut milk, sugar, rice flour and salt together bring slowly to a soft boil whilst stirring until the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and spoon over the bases.
Allow to cool and serve immediately.
These are lovely if you enjoy sweet desserts… Also an ideal Christmas dessert with a difference for those who don’t like Christmas Pudding.
I hope you have enjoyed my favourite recipe using chestnuts or water chestnuts…
About Carol Taylor:
Thank you once again for reading this post I hope you all have a great weekend xx