Welcome to the second edition of Eating Medieval, here at the World of the Blue Bells Trilogy blog. I have been collaborating with author and cook-extraordinaire Kathy Opie on a joint project in which I research and medieval recipes and Kathy prepares them and writes about her experience, along with photographs. Last month, she prepared brie tart. And now, here is Kathy on making nuttye spiced chestnut cream.
I decided to make this recipe for New Year's Eve. Why not try a dessert loved by people of days gone by for centuries to ring in our New Year? Besides I have never roasted a chestnut before and it seemed so appropriate for the season...with Jack Frost nipping at my nose. Okay, a little corny but I'm having fun here.
So I begin my recipe by roasting these little chestnuts that I have always enjoyed gathering and tossing when I was a kid. Little did I know, that you could eat the meaty pulp inside. Once I finished roasting them, I didn't realize how hard they were to get to. I found my meat tenderizer mallet worked wonderfully! It was so much fun to smash them open, and it worked like a charm! Can you imagine the medieval knights, Lords and Ladies having at their chestnuts in their huge cavernous stone halls around their great oak tables ??!
Once I cracked these hard little shells, I noticed the yellowish nut inside resembled a small wrinkled little brain. Okay, so my science background is getting the better of me. But you have to agree with me just a little?
The chestnut tasted like a sweet chewy walnut. My only problem was discovering that nearly 1/3 of my chestnuts were either over roasted or had spoiled. I wondered how farmers and grocers feel?
Like a hard boiled egg, I needed to peel some of the extra skin and lining off some of the nuts and brown spots. I also enjoyed measuring and sprinkling the concoction of spices and ingredients that would be boiled down into the mash that would make the chestnut mixture. If nothing else, my kitchen smells so deliciously seasonally yummy and festive!
1 pound fresh chestnuts
2 cups of cold water
1 lemon quartered
2/3 c brown or golden raisins
1/2 c chopped almonds
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp cinammon
1/4 tsp ground cloves (allspice works fine)
2 pts heavy whipping cream
2 TBS sugar
1/4 tsp salt
For a little holiday cheer you can also add an ounce of brandy, rum or whisky to the mixture while it boils.
Roast chestnuts at 400 F for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the shells and cut nuts into quarters. I suggest using a meat tenderizer mallet to break the tough outer shells. Place all the ingredients except the cream, salt and sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer very slowly and stir often for 45 to 55 minutes and remove lemons
Mash the chestnut mixture coarsely with a fork and let cool. I found a potato masher worked best. Whip the cream, sugar, and salt (I chose to remove the salt) until peaks form. Fold in the chestnut mixture swirl and serve.
My family thought the spiced chestnuts were a bit chewy and not very sweet. I think our tastes have evolved since days of old, and have become more processed and delicate. Perhaps this mixture would be better baked in a pie or between layers of Filo Dough pastry? The whipping cream was delicious. I loved the tangy aftertaste left by the the lemons, quite delightful!