Yotam Ottolenghi’s chestnut recipes (2024)

Ingredients can be seasonal in all sorts of ways. When they are grown, obviously, but also the way that they look: the green of spring and summer vegetables, or the orange of autumnal roots. On this night of all nights, though, as bonfires are being stoked and chestnuts are being readied for roasting, the relationship between ingredients and seasonality is all about the senses.

The sight of chestnuts roasting over an open fire is a wonderfully autumnal one. There are various pans and big slotted spoons designed especially for roasting the nuts, with holes in their base to let the flames through. If you don’t have the kit, you can improvise by making some holes in a cleaned tin can with its lid still attached (but pulled back, so you can put the chestnuts in). Quarter-fill the tin with nuts, lever the lid back in place, to seal in the nuts, then put the tin in the fire. Cook for about 15 minutes, turning the can a few times, and they’ll be ready to be peeled and eaten as soon as your fingers can handle the heat.

Alluring though this vision is, the closest many of us will get to roasting chestnuts on an open fire is hearing Nat King Cole singing about doing so on the radio. Luckily, however, the availability of vacuum-packed, cooked and peeled chestnuts means we can enjoy them even if we don’t cook them ourselves. Their texture is crumbly and starchy, their flavour sweet but earthy, and, culinarily speaking, they can go in all sorts of directions, much like the fireworks you may see tonight.

Roast poussins stuffed with chestnut, pancetta and pear

I like to serve each portion of stuffing with one little chicken, but it works just as well in a regular-sized chicken. Serves six.

25g caraway seeds, lightly toasted and roughly ground
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
20g soft dark brown sugar
150g unsalted butter, melted
6 poussins
180g peeled and cooked chestnuts
100g soft prunes
150g pancetta, cut into 1cm cubes
1 ripe pear (william or similar), cored and cut into 1cm cubes
1 slice sourdough, lightly toasted and cut into 1cm cubes
20g parsley leaves, finely chopped
18 sage leaves, 6 finely shredded to get 2 tsp, the rest left whole
80ml sunflower oil

Put half the caraway, garlic and sugar in the small bowl of a food processor (or spice grinder) with two teaspoons of salt. Blitz to a paste, then set aside a third of the mix. Put the rest in a large bowl with the butter, then massage all over the poussins. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to 24 hours: the longer, the better.

Take the poussins out of the fridge half an hour or so before cooking, so they come up to room temperature. Heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Mix the chestnuts and prunes in a bowl, add boiling water to cover and leave to soak for about 15 minutes. Drain the chestnuts and prunes, then chop into roughly 2cm pieces and put in a medium-sized bowl.

Meanwhile, heat a 28cm (or thereabouts) nonstick frying pan on a high flame and, once very hot, fry the pancetta for two minutes, stirring occasionally, until it starts to crisp. Add the pear and fry for two minutes, stirring from time to time, until golden. Tip into the chestnut bowl, then stir in the sourdough, parsley, shredded sage and the remaining caraway, garlic and sugar paste. Divide the stuffing mix between the poussins (you should be able to get about 100g into each of them) then put the poussins side by side in a baking tray in which they’ll sit snugly.

Cover with foil, roast for 25 minutes, then remove the foil, turn down the heat to 200C/390F/gas mark 6 and roast for 20 minutes more, basting once or twice. Turn the oven back up to 220C/425F/gas mark 7 and roast for a final 10 minutes, until the poussins are golden-brown, lightly crisp and cooked through. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes.

While the poussins are roasting, heat the oil in a small saucepan on a medium-high flame, then fry the sage leaves for about 20 seconds, turning a few times, until bright green and crisp. Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen paper and sprinkle lightly with salt.

Transfer the birds to a platter (or individual serving plates) and spoon any pan juices over the top. Scatter with the crisp sage leaves and serve.

Chestnut and prune chocolate brownies

If you haven’t tried chestnut flour before, don’t be put off by the smell – it’s distinct and rustic, but that’s how it’s meant to be. Chestnut flour is sold in most large supermarkets; healthfood shops should have it, too. Makes 15.

190g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate, cut into small pieces
190g unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes
150g pitted soft prunes, halved
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla essence
220g caster sugar
110g chestnut flour, sifted
¼ tsp salt
150g cooked and peeled chestnuts, broken in half

Heat the oven to 170C/335F/gas mark 3. Line a 20cm x 30cm high-sided baking tray with parchment paper.

Put the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (make sure the base of the bowl is not in contact with the water). Stir until melted and combined, then take off the heat and stir in the prunes.

Whisk the eggs, vanilla and sugar until the mixture is thick enough to leave a trail (two to three minutes with an electric whisk), then fold in the cooled chocolate mixture. Sift in the flour and salt, then stir in the chestnuts until the mixture is smooth and streak-free. Pour into the lined baking tray and bake for 25 minutes, until the brownies are just cooked and the top is shiny.

Remove from the oven and leave in the tin to cool completely, then cut into 15 square brownies.

Plum, chestnut and walnut tart

Yotam Ottolenghi’s chestnut recipes (1)

Serve warm or at room temperature on the day it’s baked, with some whipped cream or ice-cream. Serves eight, generously.

160g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
40g icing sugar
Finely grated zest of ½ small lemon
80g fridge-cold unsalted butter, cut into 2cm dice
⅛tsp salt
1 small egg yolk
8 large ripe plums, stoned and quartered
20g caster sugar

For the frangipane
75g room temperature unsalted butter
75g caster sugar
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod
100g cooked and peeled chestnuts
50g walnuts, ground in a food processor
1 small egg
2 tbsp brandy

For the glaze
60g plum jam
1 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp water

Blitz the flour, icing sugar, lemon zest, butter, salt and egg yolk in afood processor until the mixture starts to assemble into a ball (add atablespoon of cold water if you need to help it come together). Tip out on to a work surface, bring together into a ball, flatten it a bit and wrap in clingfilm. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, to firm up.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s one-pot wonders – recipesRead more

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry into a32cm diameter circle about 0.5cm thick. Lift the pastry into a loose-based 3cm-high 26cm tart tin (to help you lift it, drape the pastry overa rolling pin), then press into the edges of the tin. Trim the overhanging edges, line the pastry shell with parchment paper, fill withbaking beans and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Bake the pastry case for 20 minutes, until the edges are golden-brown, then carefully remove the paper and beans, and bake for seven minutes more, until the base is golden-brown and cooked. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Blitz all the ingredients for the frangipane in a food processor, until smooth, then spread over the base of the pastry case. Mix the plums and sugar and arrange them on top of the frangipane, pressing them in slightly. Bake for 35 minutes, until the plums are soft and the frangipane is golden-brown at the edges and set in the middle.

For the glaze, heat the jam, brandy and water in a small saucepan on amedium-high flame and stir for aminute or two, until thickened. Brush over the tart and serve warm or at room temperature.

Yotam Ottolenghi’s chestnut recipes (2024)


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