Autumn marks the season of slow-cooked meals, toasted lunches and for fruiterer and cook Thanh Truong, the best time for chestnuts.
The nutritious nut is usually available from mid-March to July.
Australian varieties are grown in north east Victoria, the Southern Tablelands in New South Wales, the Adelaide Hills in South Australia, south-west Western Australia and Northern Tasmania, according to the organization Australian Chestnuts, which represents chestnut growers.
It takes a lot of work to eat chestnuts. They need to be cooked and then the nut extracted from the hard outer skin.
There are many common mistakes that can ruin your chestnut experience, says Thanh. Here are his top tips.
Cut before you cook
Make sure you cut your chestnuts. If you don’t, they can explode because that moisture is trying to escape from inside.
Cutting them also creates an easy cavity to break open once the chestnut has been cooked.
When choosing a chestnut, feel that they’re really firm and hard.
If they’re soft and squishy, it means that they’ve lost a lot of moisture and that the nut inside has separated from the skin. It will be dehydrated and not taste as good as a firm chestnut.
Scissors, rather than a knife is the simplest and safest way to cut a chestnut.
Make sure you don’t lacerate the actual nut because it’s going to be harder to peel once it’s been roasted.
Chestnuts are traditionally cooked over fire, but an air fryer or conventional oven are the easiest kitchen appliances to use.
Preheat to 200 degrees Celsius, then put your chestnuts into your air fryer or oven cut side up. That will allow the chestnuts to breathe and the chestnuts won’t expand and blow up.
One of the common mistakes is overcooking the chestnuts.
Chestnuts cannot be cooked for over 20 minutes otherwise you risk them losing a lot of moisture.
Lack of moisture makes it difficult to peel, and the taste is not as sweet
Small chestnuts, will only take about 10 minutes to cook, larger ones will only take about 15 minutes.
Add a few extra minutes to the cooking time if you are using a conventional or a fan-forced oven.
Trap the heat
Once the chestnuts have cooked, use a tea towel and cover them up.
The tea towel traps all the humidity which is going to be stuck in between the chestnut and the shell making it easier to peel.
Chestnuts are best peeled when they are still warm, so within five to 10 minutes of them coming out of the oven and covered in the tea towel.
As soon as they go cold, whether they’re outside or in the tea towel, they’re going to be much harder to peel.
If they are too hot to touch, grab a second tea towel and use it to crush the hard shell until they crack.
When to eat
Chestnuts taste best when they are warm and moist.
So eat them while they’re hot!
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