IF you walk through the streets of Andalucía this month you are sure to smell the sweet aroma of roasting chestnuts.
The chestnut tree, originally from the Eastern Mediterranean, was introduced into Spain by the Romans and became a staple of the Galician diet.
And today, chestnuts are still widely consumed in Spain in winter, often in conjunction with festivals on and around All Saints Day on November 1.
There are several areas of Andalucía where chestnuts are cultivated but in particular they can be found in the villages of Igualeja, Pujerra and Cartajima in the Rio Genal Valley.
But make sure you don’t confuse the delicious sweet chestnuts with the more poisonous horse chestnuts that are used by children in Britain for the game of conkers.
Some recipes to help you make the most of chestnuts…
Lentil and Chestnut stew
100g ready-to-use chestnuts (if you opt for fresh, skin them and soak for an hour in hot water)
350g green lentils
1 large carrot, chopped
2-3 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic bulb, whole, leave unskinned
1 tbsp paprika
2-3 tbsp olive oil
Wrap the garlic loosely in tin foil and roast in the oven (190C, gas 6) for about 30 minutes or until the garlic is soft.
Place all the ingredients, except the olive oil, into a large saucepan with a litre of water.
Bring slowly to the boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes.
Stir to avoid sticking, and add more water if the mixture looks too dry. The lentils should end up soft and oozing into the liquid.
Finally, squeeze the flesh of the roasted garlic in to the stew, add the olive oil and stir gently to blend the flavours.
Taste and season, then ladle into bowls to serve.
Pumpkin and chestnut soup
750g peeled pumpkin
2 cubes chicken stock
1 tbsp castor sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
75g crème fraîche
250g chestnuts in tiny pieces
2 pinches nutmeg
Chop the pumpkin into pieces.
Make a litre and a half of chicken stock, bring to the boil, add the pumpkin and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.
Remove the pumpkin and blend in a food processor with a little lemon juice.
Mix the cornflour in 200ml of the cooking juice and pour back into the pan along with the blended pumpkin. Season with the sugar, netmeg, salt and pepper according to taste, add the crème fraîche and mix well.
Keep the soup hot over a low heat while you crush the chestnuts into rough crumbs using a fork.
Pour the soup into bowls and sprinkle with chestnut pieces.
Season again with rock salt and two grinds of pepper per bowl.
GREAT article and recipes! A suggestion for the Soup Recipe for those on a low-sodium diet (that keeps your blood pressure down) – skip adding the rock salt at end – add a sprinkle of ground cinnamon instead…. unhhhhmmm! Enjoy.