Saturday, 13 October 2007

Rooting Around I Found This

When Going Nuts, First Take A Leek.

Been a while hasn’t it? I’ve been ‘up north’ with The Northern Monkey and on my return the lair of the Bushwackers has suffered from water ingress, so I’ve had to dedicate the last few days to plumbing.

The chestnuts are now on form at more northerly latitudes, and I promised I’d post a recipe for my pal The Northern Monkey.

If you’re fortunate enough to be picking your chestnuts off the ground (as opposed to buying them) early picking really seems to help processing, as the dew makes the skins are a little more flexible.And of course your beating the competition to the last nights crop.

When I started using the SharpMaker on everything in the house with a blade, I noticed that I habitually started the sharpening stroke a little way down the blade and this has given my F1 a very slight (1mm) curve with a steeper blade angle on the 5mm nearest the handle. And I’ve started to see this as a lucky accident. The slight curve made the ideal ‘nicker’ for opening the skins and then peeling them off.

Once you get inside the nut you get to the pith which when fresh and damp is much easier to scrape off. If your roasting your chestnuts the pith isn’t really a problem as it crisps up inside the shell and falls off. When you buy pickled or dried chestnuts from the deli they are perfectly pithless, just beautiful ‘brain like’ orbs of, well, yummy-ness.
I’ve always wanted my gathered chestnuts to look like that too. This year I’ve gotten a bit closer.

As I was peeling, I put them into salted cold water, then blanched them in boiling salted water, before plunging them into cold water. Quite a few more ended up skinless this year. It was all pretty time consuming; a carrier bag three quarters full took four hours to go from park to freezer.

Despite this success I had no joy at all remembering that, while my thumb nail is the ideal peeling tool, its my nail-bed that pays the price for the next few days. Ouch!

For the next batch:
I have a boning knife (somewhere?) that has an exaggerated curve at the start of the blade, I’m interested to know how it works out. Also I’ve just learned that the tannin rich skins were extensively used in traditional hide tanning, either dried or fresh. Which will be handy as TNM has a source of unprocessed deer hides. Sadly the skins off the first lot are already in the compost heap.
If any of you have any pointers on how to get a skinless finish they’d be much appreciated.

Marrons du Gallois or to you and me ‘Welsh Chestnuts’

Your going to need:
Leeks (easy to grow or buy)
Cream (Organic unpasteurised is best)
Splash of white wine (maybe a Chardonnay)
Hand picked-hand processed-artisan chestnuts (or failing that ones from the shop).
Shallots (onions wont really do it)
Pancetta (or ‘dry cure’ bacon pieces not the factory farmed watery stuff )

Fry the bacon in its own fat until its got some colour leaving the bacon fat in the pan set the bacon aside.
Slice the shallots and garlic as thinly as you can and add them to the pan, reducing the heat to a flicker. Put a lid on the pan and sweat them to a syrupy mush.
While that’s happening you can thinly slice the leeks LENGTHWAYS so the slices look almost like spaghetti.
When the shallots and garlic are really slimy in go the chestnuts, bacon, and the wine.
Turn up the heat to evaporate the alcohol, and reduce by about ten percent.
Pour in the cream and as it starts to reduce add the leeks.
Its important to time the last bit so the cream reduces enough while the leeks are still a vibrant colour. Better under cooked than over cooked for the leeks.

Serve with
Pie crust: (to guarantee a perfectly cooked crust with no nasty stodgy bits, I cook the crust separately – just roll it out put it on a baking tray and stick it in the oven)
Pasta: I vote for papadeli!
Mashed potatoes: or better still mashed potatoes with forest mushrooms stirred into them!

If you’ve got any left add milk and water, wiz the whole lot up in a food processor to make a great soup.
Hope you're all well, thanks for reading