Simple Roasted Chestnuts and a Marron, Chestnut and Pine Mushroom Risotto – Dani Valent

Simple Roasted Chestnuts and a Marron, Chestnut and Pine Mushroom Risotto

Fresh chestnuts are in season in autumn and early winter. Frozen and preserved chestnuts are available throughout the year but there’s nothing like roasting and peeling your own – it’s an activity as well as a snack.

Simple Roasted Chestnuts

Score chestnuts along the rounded equator with a sharp knife (you can use a Stanley knife). Place in a baking dish and roast in a 200-degree oven for 10-15 minutes until skin starts to peel back. Cool, covered with a tea-towel for a few minutes before peeling away the shell and the inner skin.

Eat chestnuts warm or allow to cool and use in recipes, such as the one below.

Note: 1 kg of fresh chestnuts will yield approx. 600 g cooked chestnuts.

Marron, Chestnut and Pine Mushroom Risotto by Philippa Sibley

Recipe from New Classics, Hardie Grant Publications.

I’m very proud when I serve this dish. There’s a lot involved, but it’s a labour of love so worth the effort. It’s definitely for special occasions. It is a testament to beautiful, seasonal ingredients in their prime in late autumn and early winter. Serve with the best Chardonnay you can afford and a big friendly salad.

Ingredients

Risotto

  • 8 marrons or large yabbies
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 125 ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 600 g arborio rice
  • 2 L marron stock
  • 500 g chestnuts, roasted and peeled
  • 375 ml white wine
  • 4-6 pine mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 120 g butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 sprigs tarragon
  • 120 g mascarpone

Marron or yabby stock

  • marron heads with shells on
  • 1 large brown onion, peeled
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped, white part only
  • 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • 6 sprigs tarragon
  • bouquet garni
  • 200 ml canola or vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 60 ml cognac
  • approx. 3 L chicken stock
  • 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped

Method

For the marron

  1. Have a large deep saucepan of water boiling and a large bowl of iced water at hand. You will also need a big slotted spoon or long-handled tongs to remove the marrons.
  2. Kill the marrons by plunging the tip of a strong knife between their eyes, through the shell.
  3. Place the marrons into the rapidly boiling water for 20–30 seconds. Remove the marrons and refresh in the iced water. Holding the marrons in a cloth, as they’re spiky, twist the head off each marron and set aside for later. To peel the tails, use poultry shears or very strong scissors to snip up each side of the belly shell.
  4. Gently pinch near the tail end and pull to remove the shell and the intestinal tract.
  5. Crack off the claws and, using the back of a knife, bash the claw to crack it slightly. Then gently pull out the bottom pincer and the main shell should slip off easily. Don’t worry if you damage the flesh slightly as it’s being used for risotto. (Save the shells to make the stock needed for this recipe.) Now halve the tails lengthways.

For the stock

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C. Clean out the marron heads under running water and drain. Dry out the shells and heads in the oven on a large baking tray, until all the moisture has evaporated and they start to smell nutty, 20–30 minutes. Crush the shells with a meat mallet.
  2. Sauté the onion, carrot, leek, celery and garlic (the ‘mirepoix’) in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat with 3 tarragon sprigs, the bouquet garni and the oil until browned.
  3. Add the marron shells to the pan and mix well. Add the tomato paste and cook out until caramelised.
  4. Pour in the cognac and flambé and/or allow the alcohol to cook off before adding enough chicken stock to just cover the shells. Add the remaining 3 sprigs of tarragon and the tomatoes and simmer over low heat for 1½–2 hours.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool naturally, so it steeps like a tea.
  6. Ladle the mixture through a fine sieve and coffee filter (or a piece of muslin/cheesecloth) and let stand to settle any sediment. Gently pour out into equal portions, without disturbing the sediment. Reserve 2 litres for this recipe and store the remainder in the freezer or refrigerator.

For the risotto

  1. Have a colander or strainer at hand over a bowl or bucket to catch the liquid. Also have a large tray for cooling the rice down. In a wide, heavybased saucepan over medium heat, sweat the onion in the extra-virgin olive oil until it just starts to turn golden. Add the rice and toast, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes. The rice should be glossy and slightly golden. Meanwhile, have the stock on the stove warming up over medium heat.
  2. Add the chestnuts (crumble them up slightly) to the rice pan then add the wine. Cook the wine out until it’s all evaporated. Pour in all the stock and cook over high heat, stirring all the time, for 6 minutes. Strain and spread the rice on the tray. This will stop the rice from overcooking while you prepare the garnish. Reserve the starchy stock for later. The chestnuts should be nice and crumbly but still holding some shape.
  3. Heat a frying pan over high heat and sauté the mushrooms in half of the butter and a splash of extra-virgin olive oil until lightly golden. Add a splash of water to soften and emulsify any juices then season with salt and pepper. Add the leaves from the tarragon sprigs to infuse and place into a bowl for later. Give the pan a wipe with a piece of paper towel, then return to the heat and reduce to medium.
  4. Add the rest of the butter to the pan and let the butter bubble and become foamy. When the butter is nearly colouring, or ‘beurre noisette’, add the marron pieces and shake the pan for a few minutes to coat. Remember not to cook the marron too much as it will be incorporated into the hot rice later. Season with salt and pepper and set aside with the mushrooms and tarragon.
  5. Put the rice and chestnut mixture and enough starchy stock into a large saucepan and begin cooking over medium heat, stirring all the time. Add more stock as you go and cook for about 6–8 minutes or until the rice is al dente but still quite wet in consistency (if you need additional liquid, you can use chicken stock). Fold in the other ingredients and finally the mascarpone. Check the seasoning.

Tips

  • Serve with a salad and crusty bread.

More about this recipe

Thanks Philippa, for the great recipe. Do you have a go-to chestnut recipe or family tradition? I’d love suggestions on different ways to enjoy this wonderful nut. Let me know in the comments below.

Are you an X or a _ person when it comes to scoring and roasting chestnuts? I discussed this and all things chestnuts on ABC Afternoons with Clare Bowditch. Listen here.

And if you’re looking for another delicious risotto recipe, try my Low and Slow Asparagus Risotto.

If you love chestnuts as much as I do why not try these delicious recipes:

  • Castagnaccio
  • Chestnut Butter (or with a little dark chocolate this easily becomes chestnutella),
  • Necci, two ingredient chestnut pancakes with instant pear bircher muesli,

Or this beautiful recipe for Pork Cutlets with Chestnut and Apple Hash I cooked up with Simon Arkless, head chef of Terrace Restaurant at beautiful All Saints Estate.

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