A seasonal favourite from October through March, chestnuts reach their peak in December. Chestnuts are often roasted and enjoyed for their rich flavour, but these savoury delights are also high in vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre. Compared to other nuts, chestnuts contain less fat, calories and oil, making them easier on the digestive system. Rich in vitamin C, iron, calcium and zinc, chestnuts are also gluten-free. While traditionally chestnuts were roasted over a fire, you can roast them on the hob, creating a delicious seasonal treat.
Choose chestnuts that are firm. Stay away from nuts that are lightweight, blotchy or dull brown in colour. Chestnuts should not have pinholes or smell mouldy.
Buy marron chestnuts, as they are the best for roasting. Of the two kinds of chestnuts, chätaignes and marrons, marrons are more meaty and generally an inch or more across.
Store chestnuts in the refrigerator until you are ready to roast them. Like fruits and vegetables, chestnuts easily spoil if not stored properly.
Use a sharp knife to cut an "X "in the rounded part of the shell. Cutting this way allows the release of steam during roasting so the chestnuts do not explode due to the pressure.
Place chestnuts in a large mixing bowl and cover them with water. Soak for 30 to 60 minutes before roasting.
Place chestnuts into the chestnut roasting pan while they are still wet. A chestnut roasting pan has holes in the bottom.
Roast chestnuts on the hob over medium-low heat for 10 to 20 minutes, holding the pan six inches above the heat. Gently shake the pan during roasting, allowing the nuts to rotate so they cook evenly. Chestnuts shells will begin to blacken and the meat will begin to retreat from the shell when they are done.
Remove chestnuts from the stove, placing them on a clean hand towel to cool. Once the chestnuts are cool enough to touch, remove the shells. You may have to use a knife if shells are difficult to remove.
Once the shell is removed, place the roasted chestnuts in a regular frying pan. Sauté over high heat with ¼ cup of butter for five to six minutes, thoroughly coating each nut.
Place chestnuts on a baking pan and place into the oven. Bake at 177 degrees Celsius until the nuts become golden-brown.
Season chestnuts with salt to taste. Serve and enjoy.
If you do not own a chestnut pan, you can make your own by purchasing a cheap frying pan and poking holes in the bottom with a thick nail.
Cutting an "X" in the skin of the chestnuts may be hazardous considering the rounded shape. Always use caution when using a knife.