Did you know chestnuts are quite unique in the nut and seed family? Unlike other nuts and seeds, they are are relatively low in calories, carry less fat, are a rich source of minerals, vitamins and phyto-nutrients that immensely benefit health and they are chiefly made of starch rather than protein. No? Well here’s just a few facts about the not so humble chestnut health benefits:
The B Vitamins: Chestnuts are rich in many important B vitamins. 100g of nuts provides:
- 100% of thiamin (vitamin B1). It has several important functions, including working with other B-group vitamins to help break down and release energy from food and keeping the nervous system healthy.
- 12% of riboflavin (vitamin B2). Its functions include: keeping skin, eyes and the nervous system healthy helping the body release energy from the food we eat,
- 11% of niacin (vitamin B3) – which has several important functions, including helping to release energy from the foods we eat and helping to keep the nervous systems and skin healthy.
- 29% of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) which has several important functions, including allowing the body to use and store energy from protein and carbohydrates in food and helping to form haemoglobin – the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen around the body.
Vitamin C: Chestnuts are exceptionally rich in vitamin C. Just a 100g provides 43 mg of vitamin C. That’s all of your daily amount. Vitamin C of course is required for matrix formation in teeth, bones and blood vessels and helps wound healing. Being a strong anti-oxidant, it offers protection from harmful free radicals.
Folates: Just like green-leafy vegetables, chestnuts are rich in folates, a unique feature for nuts and seeds. 100g nuts provide 62 µg of folates. Folic acid works together with B12 to form healthy red blood cells.
Minerals: Chestnuts are also an excellent source of minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and zinc, besides providing a very good amount of potassium (518 mg / 100 g). Potassium helps counter hypertensive action of sodium, lowers heart rate and blood pressure. Iron helps prevent microcytic-anemia. Magnesium and phosphorus are both important components of bone metabolism.
Mono-unsaturated Fatty Acid: Like all true nuts, chestnuts are a rich source of mono-unsaturated fatty like oleic acid (18:1) and palmitoleic acids (16:1). Studies suggest that monounsaturated fats (MUFs) in the diet help lower total as well as LDL (bad cholesterol) and increase HDL (good cholesterol) levels within the blood.
Gluten-free: Chestnuts, like hazelnuts and almonds, etc. are free from gluten. A great ingredient in the preparation of gluten-free foods for people who are gluten-sensitive, have wheat allergies, or celiac disease.
Starchy, sweet, rich in flavour, chestnuts are popular edible nuts. Shelled and peeled, chestnuts can be cooked in a variety of sweet and savoury recipes (for mashing or pureeing they should have the consistency of cooked potatoes – test with a skewer). Never prepared your own “wild” chestnuts before? Here’s my first blog post in what I hope will become the chestnut mini-series my method for easy cook & peel chestnuts
A venerable classic amongst savoury chestnut recipes is the chestnut loaf, at least I think so. I have tried a number of recipes some have worked well, some not so well – producing quite a dry loaf! Personally I prefer a moist chestnut loaf packed full of flavours which compliment the subtle chestnut rather than overpower it. This recipe was created almost by accident due to a few sun-dried tomatoes languishing in the fridge which needed rescuing and a patch of spinach in need of cropping. If I’m honest that how many of my recipes are borne based on my “hatred of food waste, what needs using up” principles. But I digress, I like to think my chestnut loaf has the right combination of earthy flavours and sweetness to produce a scrumptious loaf which both carnivores and vegetarians can enjoy. There is a little prep and pre-cooking involved, but none of it is too arduous and for the most part your oven does most of the work …. so off to work we go.
Here’s what you need
300g cooked chestnuts ( simmered & peeled or oven-roasted)
2 baby leeks (1 medium leak) or 1 red onion
large clove of garlic (smoked or unsmoked)
100g fresh spinach
100g sundried tomatoes
1 chilli (can leave it out if not a chilli fan)
1 egg (whisked)
Here’s what you do
Warm oven to 180C, take 1lb loaf tin and line with grease proof paper
Clean spinach and blanch in hot saucepan using only water on the leaves. Drain and add to ice cold water. This will stop cooking & help retain colour
Chop, leek, garlic and mushrooms. Add oil from sundries tomatoes to heated frying pan and gently fry leeks (or onion) and garlic.
When softened add mushrooms and cook till reduced volume by half (approx). Allow to cool. Do not add any salt at this stage or your mushrooms will take on a slimy texture.
Whilst mushrooms are cooling blitz chestnuts till resemble breadcrumbs, don’t worry if a few larger pieces and try not to over-blitz or you’ll end up with chestnut puree. Add to a large bowl with the breadcrumbs.
Blitz approx 2/3 of the mushroom mixture, add to bowl with chestnuts along with the other 1/3 of the mushroom mixture.
Combine the ingredients in the bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper to your taste! Add whisked egg and stir until well blended with the mixture.
Now the spinach layer. Drain spinach and squeeze out all excess water. Blitz spinach with sundries tomatoes and chilli (if using).
Roughly divide chestnut and mushroom mixture in half. Spoon one half into lined loaf tin, press down well into an even layer pushing it firmly into all the corners.
Spoon the spinach and tomato over the bottom layer of chestnut mixture, gently press to cover the chestnut mixture.
Now finally add remain chestnut mixture and firm once more.
Cover the top of the tin with tin foil and bake for 25 minutes on middle shelf, remove foil and return loaf to oven for a further 15 minutes.
Remove form the oven let it rest for 5 minutes and gently remove chestnut loaf from tin. Serve in slices with a selection of steamed and buttered winter vegetables or your favourite winter salads. Any leftover loaf is pretty good cold for lunch the following day or so.
Next up in few days or so I hope will be my take on Marron Glacé. The confection, originating in southern France and northern Italy consisting of a chestnut candied in sugar syrup. Check back soon or you could always follow me to get all new posts direct to your email.