The weather was foul. Steel grey clouds were threatening to send us even more pesky snow, and icy winds cut through us like sharp blades. You guessed it. We were in London. It was December 1997, my first trip to Europe. Outside the British Museum my father dragged my mother and me to a street vendor. In a few seconds I was holding a piping hot, brown paper bag in my hands. My father took one foreign looking object out of the bag and showed me how to peel it, revealing a pale caramel flesh. It was my turn to try one. The chestnut was soft, crumbly and sweet. I was hooked.
Since then I have moved to England and can never grow tired of chestnuts when they arrive on the shops’ shelves. Seeing them is a confirmation to me that winter and the holiday season are coming. No worries though, I’ve got my warm, starchy goodies to snack on during long, cold nights.
- chestnuts, as many nuts as you reckon you can eat
- Preheat oven to 200°C (fan 180°C/400°F/gas 6).
- Using a very sharp knife (and being very careful not to cut yourself), cut a 2.5cm/1 inch cross into one side of each nut. The intent is to allow steam to escape gently instead of by explosion, which can be very messy.
- Put in a roasting tin and bake until the skins open and the insides are tender after about 20-30 minutes.
- Hot chestnuts peel easier than cold ones, so it’s best to eat right away. So when you remove them from the heat, immediately cover them with a towel and keep them covered as you remove one at a time to peel. Peel away the skin and the pithy white bit inside to get to the sweet kernel. If you are sharing with people, make everybody peel their own!