It’s beautiful filtered light drenched, colourful Autumn here in the High Country of Victoria, Australia. In the Wandiligong valley that means lots of Chestnuts are dropping daily!
Chestnuts are the edible nut from the Castanea genus tree. Chestnuts provide high levels of dietary fiber, minerals, ‘good’ fats, vitamins, nutrients, antioxidant compounds and other important components that make up a healthy diet. They are actually less like a normal nut and more like a starchy fruit. Such an interesting a versatile addition to your pantry!
Many people only try roasted chestnuts at Christmas, I have to admit that was my only knowledge of them until I found we had two huge trees in our garden.
Now I use them to make soups (in place of a starchy veg like potatoes), breads (dehydrated and ground into flour), bliss balls (as a Chestnut meal), or pan fry them for salads and of course still enjoy a bowl roasted in the oven or over an open fire. YUM.
The one downside to Chestnuts is they are a bit of a pain to peel and to get to the actual nut inside! When you roast them to eat as you would a bowl of nuts you can simple score the tough outer brown skin in a cross shape with a sharp knife and then pop them on a baking tray in the oven for about 20 minutes or so (depending on the size – there are lots of varieties) until they open up. Then let them cool a little in a bowl with a tea towel over the top and serve for people to peel themselves. The skin should just pull off, particularly with the smaller varieties.
To make chestnut meal or use the nuts for soups and other recipes you’ll need to fully peel them during the preparation process. You can use the same roasting method as above (you could even cut the nuts completely in half) but the larger varieties tend to be harder to peel this way so cutting them in half and boiling in a pan full of water for 10 minutes can be more effective.
I chose to get some of my bigger ones peeled using a mechanical peeler which shaves the skin off in a big drum! It really saves your poor fingers if you have kilos and kilos to do! I got them peeled at local Chestnut and biodynamic farm Wandiful Produce where you can also pick your own Chestnuts over the Autumn months. You can pop peeled and unpeeled chestnuts in the freezer to keep them as unlike other nuts they will go off if left out for more than a week or so.
Once I have the Chestnuts peeled (either boiling or using the peeler) I roast them in the oven at about 160 deg C for about 30 minutes. This dries them out as well as cooking them so they can be prepared into a meal. They then can be transferred into a powerful food processor to grind up into Chestnut meal.
NB. If you were using them to make something like a cake, pizza or pancakes I’d recommend dehydrating the chestnuts (either cooking for longer at low heat in oven or using a dehydrator) and also straining the flour too and grinding an extra time to make sure the flour is finer. For bliss balls it is ok for the meal to be chunky!
These Bliss Balls kind of touch on the flavours of Christmas, which feels weird here in the Southern Hemisphere but hey I am English! The Cacao and Wild Orange go so well with the Chestnut flavours.
Here’s the recipe! Let me know how you go.
Chestnut, Cacao and Wild Orange Bliss Balls
- 1 cup chestnut meal (prepared as above)
- 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
- 2/3 cup dates (soaked in hot water and drained)
- 1/4 cup sunflower & chia seeds
- 3 tbsp Raw Cacao Powder
- 6 drops Wild Orange food grade essential oil – I use DoTerra (*optional)
- 1 drop Cinnamon food grade essential oil – I use DoTerra (*optional)
- 3 tbsp coconut oil (melted)
- 1 tbsp tahini
extra desiccated coconut for rolling in
Place the ingredients into your processor in the order listed above and blend until the mixture resembles a sticky crumb. Use your hands to shape the mixture into balls. Roll the balls in the extra coconut and place in the fridge to set.