By next week they’ll be gone. But while you can, there’s a bounty of smooth, nutty, sweet Autumn Chestnuts ready in abundance and littering the floor of the woods… Don’t mistake them for conkers (or worse vice versa)… You’ll know a sweet Chestnut by it’s green shell of fine spines, which is almost impossible to penetrate without impaling a finger. Inside you’ll find 3 cosy chestnuts, slightly tear-dropped in shape (compared to their more spherical conker cousins). You’ll have to be creative getting in to them…. my preferred method is a sort of stamp squeeze with a foot, so that the chestnut pops free and my fingers are saved… It’s worth it though. Take a bag, collect plenty, top and tail them and roast them in the oven for 30 minutes and enjoy warm. Or, add them to this delicious autumnal risotto…
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 cup arborio rice
1 glass dry white wine
2 large chestnut mushrooms
Roughly 24 Whole Sweet Chestnuts
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage
pinch salt & pepper
900mls Chicken Stock
Cheddar Cheese to grate.
1) Heat the butter and olive oil on a high heat in a large wok or frying pan on the hob. Have the chicken stock warmed in a separate pan on the hob. See the link to warming winter bone broth in ingredients to make your own stock. Make sure the chestnuts are roasted (as above) prior to making the risotto.
2) Chop the onion and garlic and soften in the pan for around 10 minutes. Stir so not to colour the garlic.
3) Add the rice and stir until the colour changes slightly translucent.
4) Add the wine and turn down to a low simmer. Continue to stir the rice.
5) As the rice absorbs the liquid, top, ladle by ladle with chicken stock, allowing each ladle to be absorbed before adding the next.
6) Chop the mushrooms and add to the pan along with the sprig of sage and thyme. Add a little sea salt and black pepper, stir and continue to add stock.
7) Chop and add the chestnuts to the risotto. Stir and continue to add stock for around 20 minutes or until the rice is soft and the liquid is fully absorbed.
8) Grate the cheddar and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
There are plenty of claims that bone broth is a miracle food, and cure all for the gut and immune system. Whether you believe it or not (and it is a case of ‘buy in’ as science hasn’t said much yet) what I can say is that there is something enormously satisfying in using up the carcass of the roast from the day before. I cover the bones with water and simmer on a low heat all day long. The smell is wonderfully warming when you come in to house. and the idea that nothing has been wasted is satisfying. I’m also fascinated by the break down of the bones in to a sort of mush… And I’m pretty sure that whatever minerals, amino acids and other goodies are stored in that organic carcass, are now in my food. Heath benefits aside, adding a good chicken bone broth to risotto adds flavour and texture in a way that a vegetable stock simply will not do. For more on bone broth read on…