It couldn’t have been a more perfect day for our little chestnut collecting adventure in the mountains. The sun was showing off and the sky was revelling in it. Instead of our predicted raincoats we wore sun hats and short sleeves. Instead of the sticky, sweltery summer heat, it was perfectly temperate. I guess this is the beauty of a lovely Autumn day.
We arrived at Kookootonga nut farm where we got a little run down on chestnut collecting. Armed with buckets and protective gloves we headed off into the trees to find the biggest, shiniest chestnut of them all.
Chestnuts are a spiky beast. One has to be very careful not to get too excited when you spot the beautiful brown sheen from within, since there is no way to quickly rid a chestnut of its spiky outerwear. With the aid of a stick or a heavy boot, reward can be met.
Kookootonga also has walnut trees and I had a painfully city slicker moment when I asked if this fruit was edible. For anyone as ill educated as me, this beautiful green fruit is the outer shell of the walnut. I bet you’re glad I let you in on that not-so-secret secret.
One thing I will say about being a novice chestnut collector is that you are doomed to get carried away. The farm weighs your chestnuts upon completion and you end up paying per kilo. We aimed to collect about a kilo of chestnuts but in our quest for the biggest, shiniest treasure we landed up with three kilos at weighing time.
After a bit of chestnut picking one can get rather hungry, so we stopped in a lovely park under a shady tree for a good Italian picnic. By Italian picnic I mean a picnic that is in a league of its own, with beautiful home made food, freshly baked cakes, tea, coffee and biscotti.
All in all, we were rather happy with our loot and had a wonderful day. We have been enjoying the smell of roasting chestnuts ever since and I managed to sneak some of the roasted chestnuts into a beautiful chestnut puree which I highly recommend making whether you pick the chestnuts yourself or buy them locally. It is beautiful mixed through yoghurt for a rather guiltless dessert, perfect for porridge on the colder mornings that are fast approaching and a great ingredient for cakes (one of which I will be baking in a week and will definitely share with you).
Sweet Chestnut Puree
Makes approx. 500g
420g chestnuts roasted, peeled and roughly chopped
2 1/4 cups milk
Pinch of salt
seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup caster sugar
Combine chestnuts, milk, salt and vanilla bean seeds into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the chestnuts are very soft and all but about 1/2 cup of the liquid has been absorbed. Add sugar and cook till disolved, about 5 minutes. Allow mixture to simmer and thicken a little. Strain through a sieve and reserve liquid.
Blend the chestnuts in a food processor and add a little of the reserved liquid to loosen the puree. Add as much liquid as necessary to achieve the desired smooth consistency. Mine required all of the liquid but it will depend on how much evaporates off during cooking.
I hope you enjoy delighting in this beautiful seasonal pleasure.