Tag Archives: chestnuts

The English weather. And a chestnut and sage recipe.

So I’m going to talk about the weather now. If you’re non-English in UK, you’re getting used to little weather chats in awkward situations:

**Making a cup of tea in the staffroom. Another person waiting for the kettle**

– So… The weather’s awful today, isn’t it?

– Yeah… It is, isn’t it?

– Yeah… See you later.

**Both leave at the same time in silence**

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Apparently Wales and the south-west of the Kingdom have been smothered in storms, waves and floods for months now.

This year it has been very dry, warm and tranquil, which is unusual for English weather. Well, at least in Leeds. This means we were able to have a breath of fresh air and a glance at the sun. And maaan, I haven’t seen the sun in a long time!

We live on the bank of River Aire and the area is relatively green and quiet. Whenever we go to the city centre, this is what we see:

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This is the main hall of the newly-opened Trinity shopping centre. Talk about crowded… Every day. What can you possibly be buying?

Well, we were buying chestnuts.

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The UK supermarkets still stock chestnuts at this time of year. They’re quite pricey, but you can get them for at least half the price at a local market. Both sellers probably get them from the same supplier overseas, China being one of the largest suppliers of chestnuts to the UK.

I didn’t know that once bought, you were supposed to keep them in the fridge. My lack of knowledge resulted in them accumulating mould inside their shell and eventually half of them ended up in the bin, which is a bit of a shame.

What you need:

A bag of chestnuts, around 200 grams

A cup of rice [to two cups water]

10 sage leaves

A knob of butter (use olive oil if you’re vegan)

What do I do with all these ingredients??

1) Roast the chestnuts for 15 – 20 mins in 180 C oven and peel once cool;

2) Cook the rice for 10+ mins with a little salt;

3) Fry sage in butter until crispy, remove carefully and leave aside;

4) Fry the peeled nuts in leftover butter with some salt, arrange everything on a plate and enjoy.

As you take a bite, you can taste the sweetness of the chestnuts. Follow that with the savoury rice and buttery, yet crunchy sage and you’ll be amazed how such little ingredients can have so much character.

Yakiguri Gohan and our mid-December barbecue

Where I come from, people don’t usually cook chestnuts, let alone eat them – you just throw them at each other when you’re a kid. That’s all. The other day, however, I bought some chestnuts and luckily stumbled upon an interesting recipe from a cool blogger Kyoto foodie (recipe at the end).

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It was the 14 of December and the weather was perfect for a barbecue. NOT! As it was a bit chilly, we packed our picnic basket with tea and biscuits.

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Even though we were wearing scarves and gloves, the barbecue was a definite success. The chestnuts came out very charred and full of smoky flavour.

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Theoretically it is easier to peel the chestnuts while they’re hot, so I peeled them straight off the barbecue to find out for myself.
Yes, it is easier. And yes, it does hurt.

 

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I have well over roasted the chestnuts but it didn’t over complicate the dish. And it was a nice way to enjoy a chilly afternoon with ‘chestnuts roasting on an open fire…’  song in my head.

 

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With a few alterations, here was the end result. I have slightly altered the recipe to suit the basic “westerner’s” cupboard items, however the original ingredients are included.

 

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Before you cook, you’re most likely to need a jargon buster:
DASHI KOMBU IS DRIED KELP
KELP IS A TYPE OF SEAWEED
DONABE IS A RICE COOKER/DISH/PAN
SAKE IS JAPANESE HIGH ALCOHOL WINE
MIRIN IS SWEET RICE WINE
YAKIGURI IS ROASTED CHESTNUTS
GOHAN IS RICE

 

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Ingredients:

 

20 medium size chestnuts
1 cup short grain white rice
1 cup of water
2 tablespoons sake*
1 tablespoon mirin**
1 teaspoon salt
dashi kombu***

 

*Sake is a high alcohol Japanese white wine (something over 14% would have a similar effect). I have used 13% dry white wine which was a bit bitter.
**Mirin is a sweet rice wine used in Japanese cooking. Instead of mirin you can just use dry sherry or sweet marsala. I have dissolved a small amount of sugar in a little dry white wine (1/4 teaspoon of sugar to 1/4 cup white wine).
***Dashi Kombu: Dashi kombu is dried kelp (seaweed). It has a very distinct taste and I am not sure of a substitute ingredient. I bought a bag (photo above) for £1.90 from a local Asian store and there are like 7 of them in the bag!

 

Directions:

 

1)      Roast the chestnuts in an oven (180 C) for 10-20 minutes, or on an open fire until charred. Optionally, you can cut crosses in chestnuts so they are exposed to flame and get a smoky flavour.
2)      Add the water and rice to a pot (donabe). Then add sake, mirin and salt. Mix in the chestnuts and place sheet of dried dashi kombu on top.
3)      Heat until near boil and cover the pot. Reduce heat and cook for 10 minutes.
4)      After 10 minutes, remove from heat and leave for 10 minutes.
5)      Uncover and mix gently to break chestnuts into pieces.
6)      Generally the kombu is discarded, but I really enjoyed the chewy little sponge with the meal.

 

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Apparently in certain places in Japan it is considered poor presentation if you leave the chestnuts whole. The reason is if you don’t have a chestnut in every bite, you can’t taste its full flavours. Everything has to be inside the bowl, no rice sticking out. Also, the Japanese are well known for their distinct personalities, attention to detail and aesthetics. So let’s have a nice meal with respect for our food and the ones enjoying it.

 

And Iiiii’m offering the simple phrase… for kids from 1… till 92… Merry Christmas…. tooooooo youuuuu! Tan tan tan, tan tan tan, tan tan tan.. tan tan!