While most South Africans have heard songs about roasting chestnuts over fires at Christmas while it gently snows outside, not many have had the pleasure of experiencing this.We may not be able to experience the snow but that does not mean that we can’t enjoy these festive nuts in all their glory.
Chestnuts have a shiny, hard, inedible outer shell that protects the 3-4 nuts inside. When cooked, (don’t eat a fresh chestnut raw, you will not like it!) chestnuts have a soft, crumbly texture, similar to that of a cooked potato. They have a high starch and water content and low fat and protein content, which is why they are not quite the same as other nuts.
In South Africa, tinned chestnuts and chestnut puree are more common but nowadays, you can find fresh chestnuts at speciality stores and markets.
If you can get your hands on some fresh ones, be sure to roast them over a braai. You need to make an incision in the shell and through the skin, otherwise, just like a popcorn kernel, they will explode!
A good tip is to keep one whole so when it does “pop”, you know that the others are ready!
If you cannot find fresh chestnuts, you can always opt for tinned chestnuts. These work wonderfully in stuffings for your festive turkey, pair beautifully with pork, and Brussels sprouts and pancetta are not the same without chestnuts!