"Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose ..." Well, Christmas may have been and gone but Nat King Cole is still spot on with the weather report, so it was the perfect time to try out a pack of chestnuts from Merchant Gourmet. Chestnuts are one of those things that I've always been intrigued about but wasn't really sure we'd like them, so I've never bought them. I was therefore delighted when we received some to try out in the Madhouse kitchen.
I received both whole chestnuts and chestnut puree, and as I didn't really know what to do with them, I looked through the recipes on the Merchant Gourmet website for inspiration. It turns out that they can be used in both sweet and savoury recipes, so I was spoilt for choice.
I decided to save the chestnut puree for a sweet bake, and use the whole chestnuts in a classic savoury combination, Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon. After pouring the chestnuts out of the bag, I had a tentative nibble and was pleasantly surprised - they are soft and sweet, not at all hard and nutty as I was expecting.
According to the on -pack info, they are low fat, low in saturates and a source of fibre. Each 60g serving (that's a third of the bag - what you see in the bowl is the entire contents of the pack, minus a couple that were nibbled on to see what they tasted like !) provides 106 calories, 1g of fat (of which 0.2g saturates) and 5.5g of sugar.
Brussels sprouts with chestnuts and bacon
a dozen Brussels sprouts
200g bacon lardons or pancetta
a 180g pouch of Merchant Gourmet whole chestnuts
a knob of butter (optional)
Either cut the sprouts in half or chop off the tough end and cut a cross into the bottom, but whichever you choose, don't overcook them - there's nothing worse than soggy sprouts ! Cook in boiling water for 5 minutes, so they still retain some crunch and a lovely vibrant green colour. Drain and reserve.
Cook the bacon lardons for 5 minutes until cooked through, drain off any liquid/fat and cook for a further 3 minutes until they start to crisp up. Add the chestnuts and the sprouts and cook for a couple of minutes until they are warmed through.
I decided to chop the chestnuts and sprouts in half so that they could soak up more of the bacon flavour. If they are already glistening in bacon fat, you won't need to add extra butter, but if not, melt a knob of butter in the pan and toss it all around just before serving.
This takes the humble sprout to another dimension and would make a great addition to any Sunday roast, not just Christmas dinner.
Disclosure : I received the chestnuts to experiment with. For more recipe inspiration, head over to www.merchant-gourmet.com/