Friday, 9 December 2011

Braised Chestnuts and Chestnut Mushrooms

I thought I would do something with something that's a little more Christmassy. So I got a bag of chestnuts, because that seems to be the nut of choice around this period.

Chestnuts don't taste like normal nuts at all. They're actually quite sweet and not really crunchy. Apparently in some places in Europe, chestnuts form the staple of their diet, so they're more like carby nuts. Some of you may be surprised to know that chestnuts aren't a European thing, the way I was surprised to know that they aren't an Asian thing when I first saw vendors roasting chestnuts on the streets of London.

This is adapted from my mum's "dao you ji", chicken braised with chestnuts and shiitake mushrooms in soy+oyster sauce. I used chestnut mushrooms instead that I got for free from the farmers' market that day, also because I like the idea of putting the two "chestnuts" together. And I used no chicken, which makes this a really easy and simple side that you can serve up (maybe for Christmas if you've got some leftover from preparing stuffing?)

Braised Chestnuts and Chestnut Mushrooms
400g of chestnuts in shell (or you can use ready prepared ones which will make this even simpler)
2 large handfuls of baby chestnut mushrooms
1 tbsp traditionally fermented/brewed soy sauce
1 tbsp traditionally fermented oyster sauce
1 tsp ground white pepper
few slices of ginger
few cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole

To prepare the chestnuts
1. My mum always used dried chestnuts so fresh chestnuts was totally new to me. I found this really useful website teaching you how to.

Cut an 'X' on the flat side of the chestnut (important, or they will explode!!). If you can, soak overnight in water, which will help it cook and peel easier, plus it will help with the issue of anti-nutrients and digestion.

You can boil or roast, I decided to roast for ~25 min in a 200 degrees celsius oven, to bring out its sweet flavour more. Once the shells split, peel them from their shells. If you leave them to cool too long, the shells stick so it becomes harder to peel.

You'll end up with a lot less chestnuts than 400g, because of course, it's de-shelled, plus you'll have to discard the bad ones, and you'll probably munch on a couple as you go ;)

2. Add the chestnuts, together with all the rest of the ingredients, and enough water to cover in a pot. Bring to a boil, then let simmer for about 30 min.

Easy, no frying first, no fuss.

3. Add the chestnut mushrooms, and continue to simmer for about 15 min till cooked.

Notice sauce has already reduced by quite a bit from earlier.

4. Increase the heat so the sauce reduces, until you get a yummy sticky sauce to coat everything. Yup, no need for cornstarch or anything to thicken.

The chestnuts add a mellow nutty sweetness to the braising sauce so you've got sweet and savoury altogether. The best part is, the chestnuts and mushrooms and the garlic cloves soak up that sauce, and biting into each of them is a delicious burst of flavour. You can skip the reducing step if you want, so it's more like chestnuts and mushrooms in a light braising liquor, the way my mum does her dao you ji, also yum. I know because I taste-tested about 10 times while reducing..It was addictive ):

Anyway I know there's still nothing Christmassy about this at all except for that one ingredient. Hmm.


  1. It sounds really interesting...I'll have to pick up some chestnuts.

  2. What a creative and intriguing recipe! I really want to try this one :)

  3. This sound so flavourful! more rice please...

  4. I absolutely adore chestnuts. I could live off them. I am really intrigued by your cooking and this looks so interesting so I will be giving it a go!

  5. I'm looking forward to trying this recipe - although I have to admit that I'll use the peeled chestnuts!!!!

  6. Until very recently I was convinced chestnuts were only cooked in Europe and I still remember how surprised I was to see a chestnut dish in a Chinese cookery book. The only way I had chestnuts was either the grilled ones on the street or very sweet ones (in French they are called marron glacé). I hated both for the floury consistency.
    Your dish looks so appetising I start wondering if I shouldn't give chestnuts a second chance and cook them in a savoury dish. Maybe they don't end up floury?
    The combination with button mushrooms sounds fantastic.

  7. My mum loves to add chesnut to her sticky rice dumplings (you know those triangular ones) and I used to chuck them all out ;), but I think in this combination with mushrooms and savoury sauce, it does sound good...:)!!

  8. Fabulous recipe and idea - love chestnuts and this is the absolute BEST thing to do with them!
    mary x

  9. This looks really good! I've made a couple of Chinese style hotpots using dried chestnuts, but I think this sounds much better.

  10. I love chestnuts and this reminds me of the filling in the Bachang... :)

  11. My neighbour cuts the very top of the chestnut off, though personally I've always preferred the cross method. The cross flares out, making it easy to peel! I've never been a massive fan of chestnuts, although I bet they're great when they've been braised like this - and yeah - cutting or scoring is damn important. I didn't cut all the way through one year and one of them exploded as I opened the oven door! Damn near took my eye out! :(

  12. I usually like to eat my chestnuts on the sweet rather than savory side, but the way you cooked this dish might have me changing my mind! Roasted chestnuts always remind me of Christmases spent in lovely to be cuddled up with a big, warm bag of them, fending off the cold weather ;).

  13. I'm so totally going to try this. You've also just answered my question. I had no idea what to do with uncooked chestnuts so now I know. This just looks amazing. Ooookay, this is going into my next Ocado delivery.

  14. I love chestnuts and use it in some of my favorite dishes. Your braised chestnuts and mushroom dish sounds really tasty and delicious!

  15. YUMMY! I love chestnuts, it's such a great and versatile ingredient. And fleshy too, which makes it so nice to munch on. Your tips on how to prepare them is really helpful. There are more fresh ones than there are dried ones here in Australia too. Looooove soft, braised chestnuts. YUM! =D

  16. Lyndsey: yup, i think it's worth the effort gettign some fresh ones and roasting them yourself for the smells (:

    emily: thanks, let me know how it goes!

    sonia: exactly what I did! even though chestnuts are supposedly very starchy already, but it just tasted so good with freshly steamed rice!

    dom: saw your chestnut soup recipe and am in love too!

    brownieville girl: it would make things a lot faster for sure!

    sissi: I didn't find them floury at all, maybe because the braising keeps them moist? I know what you mean by floury, sometimes i get very put off by the chestnuts in ba zhang, an asian rice dumpling, because they go all dry and powdery. maybe it's also the difference between using fresh vs dried chestnuts? not sure..

    cooking gallery: yah the ba zhang i just mentioned! i used to pick those out though.. somehow didn't like them inside..

    mary: thanks!!

    foodycat: i actually haven't tried using dried chestnuts myself, but i relalyt hink roasting them brings out an added sweetness. i think at least!

    shirley: it's sweeter than the usual ba zhang filling actually, cos of the oyster sauce and the roasted chestnuts(: i love ba zhang filling though yum yum.

    charles: haha! i know i shouldnt be laughing but im imagining the scene right now >< poor you.

    maya: you'll be surprised, this was actually quite sweet! i love roasted chestnuts for the same reason, just the smell of them in the oven is enough to make me feel all cozy!

    chocolate, cookies & candies: i had to google how to cook chestnuts too! yay i'm so excited you're going to try this out! let me know how it foes!

    biren: thanks!

    winston: thanks!! yah, in fact i can;t seem to find dried ones. hmm maybe in chinatown? but the roasted fresh ones are even nicer I feel!