Winter is the smell of roasted chestnuts

We have been riding our bikes in the afternoons taking advantage of the beautiful weather. All over.

“What is that smell?” Jon screamed while he was riding way behind me. “It smells good!”

“Good!” Miren screamed as she repeats everything Jon says.

I could smell it too.

It was the chestnuts that one of our neighbors was roasting. A smell that puts me back on the street corner of my hometown where every winter the castañera (the chestnuts lady) sets up shop without fail. Brown paper cones filled with sizzling roasted chestnuts.

Winter.

I came home thinking about my uncle’s chestnut trees back in the Basque Country. Tucked away at the bottom of his hill, there is a dark, chestnut tree-filled corner where we like to spend hot summer days. We spent time down by the chestnut trees this past summer where some chestnuts had already begun falling. It was early in the season, but perfect as I was able to show the children what a chestnut looks like with its green and spiny outer shell.

“I now remember what a chestnut looks like, amatxu. We saw them at Javi’s” Jon said to me as we continued to ride.

After that, I made sure to bring some chestnuts home. It never quite feels like winter without roasted chestnuts and clementines, right?

Miren and I spent the morning outside while Jon was in school. She helped me peel the roasted chestnuts that I was going to use to make soup. Roasted chestnut, potato, and celery root soup garnished with goat cheese, parsley, and small pieces of roasted chestnuts.

We decided to eat outside. I wasn’t sure how Miren would like the soup, but she devoured her entire bowl and even took some more from mine. Always a good sign.

I am also a big fan of chestnut flour, which I use all year round. It is another great gluten-free flour. I add it to our pancakes quite often and I also make a really good chocolate cake with it. I order it online as I have yet to find a store around me that carries it, but it is well worth it.

I made this gluten and casein free chestnut and lady apple clafoutis a couple of weeks ago. Chestnut flour, a touch of sweetened chestnut cream, and vanilla bean make this creamy custard very fragrant. It is topped with sauteed lady apples for added flavor and texture.

Did I mention I love chestnuts?

I think it’s time for a mont blanc.

Roasted Chestnut, Potato, and Celery Root Soup

serves 6 to 8

12 ounces (340 g) chestnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 leek, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large stalk celery, diced
10 ounces (300 g) diced russet potatoes
8 ounces (225 g) diced celery root
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups (500 ml) chicken stock
1 cup (125 ml) water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 ounces (60 g) goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400F (200C). Cut a cross on top of the chestnuts. Place the chestnuts on a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. When they are cool enough to handle, peel them. Reserve about 3 of them, which we will use as garnish.

In a pot, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the leek, onion, garlic, and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until soft but not brown. Add the potato, celery root, bay leaf, and thyme. Cook for another 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add the roasted chestnuts, chicken stock, water, salt, and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pot, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

Puree the soup with a blender. Adjust seasoning and liquid if needed. Serve the soup with goat cheese, some torn flat leaf parsley, and crumbled roasted chestnuts.

Gluten and Casein Free Chestnut and Apple Clafoutis

This is a very versatile clafoutis. You can omit the chestnut cream if you cannot find it or use almond flour instead of chestnut flour.

makes a 10-inch deep pie dish

1 pound (450 g) lady apples, sliced and seeded
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons ghee, plus more for dish
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (115 g) sugar
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
3 eggs
2 tablespoons sweetened chestnut cream
1/3 cup (35 g) chestnut flour
1/4 cup (30 g) cornstarch
1 1/4 cup (310 ml) unsweetened coconut milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Brush the inside of your clafoutis dish with melted ghee and set aside.

In a small bowl, toss together the sliced apples and lemon juice. In a medium saute pan, heat the ghee over medium heat. Add the apples, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and half of the vanilla bean and seeds. Cook the apples for 3 minutes until soft, but not mushy. Remove from heat, discard vanilla pod, and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, rest of sugar, chestnut cream, and rest of vanilla seeds until smooth. Add the chestnut flour, cornstarch, salt, and coconut milk and whisk until free of lumps and smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve if necessary.

Pour the clafoutis into the pan. Top with sauteed apples and pour in any juices left in the pan.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden and puffed. Serve warm or at room temperature.


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60 Responses to “Winter is the smell of roasted chestnuts”

  1. What a beautiful soup! I always enjoy reading your posts, Aran.

  2. Ana_ILTdP says:

    Hola!

    I like chestnuts too! I used to have some to take away and eat them on the go when I lived in Madrid… Now it’s time for all that, you’re certainly true :)

    I love all the dishes you’ve prepared in this entry, specially the soup, must be delicious!

  3. Chestnuts remind me so much of being young and the holidays. I’m all Italian, and my dad’s side of the family is from a town in Italy famous for its chestnut trees. That soup and gluten free goodness look so festive and special — they’re both on my list of things to make! Thanks, as always, for the inspiration.

  4. jessica says:

    So funny, about a week ago the hubby and I were talking about chestnuts!! We had heard the christmas song…”chestnuts roasting over an open fire…” I have never eaten a chestnut, and neither of us really knew what they were. So we spent a few minutes researching them!! They sound delish…and I will definitely be trying your recipe for the potato soup!! :)

    Merry Christmas!!
    Jessica

  5. Rikki says:

    I just got some chestnuts from the store, these recipes are perfect, thank you!
    Love your photographs as always [:

  6. Linda says:

    I am not eating chestnuts, but I am DEVOURING your incredibly amazing photography!!!!!!! Wish I could frame each shot!!

    May your heart be light—
    Linda

  7. Golubka says:

    Beautiful! This post made me crave chestnuts so much, going to get some tomorrow :)

  8. I can’t say I have tasted chestnuts… since I live in Australia they aren’t a common thing but boy do I want to try some after reading your soup recipe! Yum!

  9. I’m so curious about chestnuts. It’s just a taste I have not grown up with. Looking at your wonderful photos and recipes just makes me so intrigued to find some!

  10. Joy says:

    Utterly and fantastically perfect in all ways possible!

  11. The scent of roasted chestnuts is so comforting… and ever time I see a recipe that includes them, I’m left feeling energized by such wonderful possibilities!

  12. Juliana says:

    You’re right: it isn’t winter without roasted chestnuts and clementines. I love buying them in the paper bag and eating them hot while walking though the streets.

  13. wow!
    Can you also MAKE some chestnut cream? I wouldn’t know where to find it…

  14. I love chestnuts, especially the hot ones bought from shacks… Both recipes sound amazing. A lovely soup and dessert.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  15. tinajo says:

    Beautiful pics! I´ve never tasted chestnuts, may have to since it looks delicious! :-)

  16. I love chesnuts! The texture..and the taste..they are really beautiful things to incorporate into our diets. You’ve made them shine in this recipe! I usually just eat them plain.

  17. Beautiful pictures! I love strong contrasts – so the chestnuts just pop out of the photo! Here in north of germany we had the first snow today. It seems the time of chestnuts is over long ago. But today I’m doing a recipe with store brouht chestnuts and cabbage…Yum yum and bye bye Susanne

  18. alexiaku says:

    chestnuts mean winter to me! the soup looks great and the photos are true eye candy!

  19. Don’t forget to pierce your chesnuts before putting them in the oven or on the fire! I learnt this the hard way. I am still finding pieces of exploded chesnut all over the kitchen twelve months later…

  20. some of the most memorable food in Paris are the roasted chestnuts. they are most definitely a gem! and your clafoutis looks divine…..will have to try it! x

  21. Aaaaah chestnuts- reminds me of vendors roastign them on Offord Street! Lovely….I can just imagine using the four in a pancake.

  22. Chestnuts remind me of my youth, too. Growing up in Manhattan, the warmth of the chestnut vendors and the treats they served up in brown paper bags still brings joy to my heart. I love the story you tell in this post through your words and photos. A great way to start the day.

  23. Nothing smells more like winter than roasted chestnuts. I love them so much that I usually just eat them fresh out of the shell and never really cook with them. But your soup sounds heavenly, I’ll give it a try!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  24. Yes I love roasted chestnuts as they are as well. Just from the brown paper bag.

    Dulcistella- I have to admit I always buy the chestnut cream but you can make it at home. It is basically chestnut puree mixed with sugar syrup and vanilla. I am not sure of the proportions, so you migght want to look at a recipe online.here is a great resource http://www.barbraaustin.com/2010/12/creme-de-marrons/

    Thanks all and happy holidays!

  25. beautiful, I love the dark autumnal images :)

  26. I haven’t really eaten many chestnuts in my life but after reading this post, I think I could get into them.

    I love the picture at the beginning of the handful of chestnuts. It looks so real with the dirty hands, like you are really getting back to the land.

  27. magierin says:

    wow.phantastic fotos and also wonderful recepts.i read your side since short time and be very amused and love ist.i wish you and your familie a very nice christmas.

  28. a. maren says:

    as a sad american i have never really had chestnuts. although as a child i once tried to eat a horse chestnut i found. turns out they’re not the same thing! ick.

    if i ever find them for sale, i will definitely make this lovely soup. thanks for sharing!

  29. All these comments from you readers in the US… There must be chestnut groves in the Us right? I’m on a mission to find some! I think CA has some growers, not sure if any other state does. Please let us know if you know of any. It would be great!

    Thank you!

  30. Aran, I’m running NOW to get some chestnuts to roast for tonight’s dinner. Beautiful post, as always, and the colors definitely express the chilly weather in which piping hot chestnuts taste like blessings!

  31. Simone says:

    I really LOVE your blog. So awesome and beautiful. I would like to give you the “Liebster Blog Award”. I hope, you will accept.

  32. Steph says:

    Your photos are always absolutely gorgeous. And it put me in the holiday spirit! Great post.

  33. I can almost feel the scent of those roasted chestnuts. I also use chestnut flour. Here in Portugal we have small cakes named falachas made with chestnut flour and they are delicious. Love the warmth of these photos.
    Wishing you a great Christmas Aran!

  34. I adoooore chestnuts, especially roasted. Soups and desserts with chestnuts are among my favorite.
    Beautiful soup Aran. I love that bowl you put it in, may I ask where you found that? It’s so cute.
    The Mont Blanc is a dessert I have to make. Thanks for remind me of it with your link.
    Happy Holidays to you and your family!
    Magda

  35. I just made the soup for dinner and it was everything I want in a soup. Delicious. Thanks for sharing! And for helping me discover chestnuts.

  36. Shelby says:

    What a beautiful post, full of nostalgia, mouthwatering recipes and precious moments… thank you!!!

  37. Carina says:

    Oh my, this is so lovely! I adore chestnuts too, what I would give to be sitting by a warm fire and roasting them, outside the snow falling…

    xx Carina

  38. Katie, so glad you enjoyed the soup and thank you for coming back and letting me know.

    Thanks all!

  39. Magda, I forgot yo answer your question. I am assuming you are talking about the bowl with the red thread? That is from South African artists Clay Studio.

    Thanks!

  40. What a unique and tasty sounding soup! I love the smell of roasted chestnuts too :)

  41. deena says:

    After climbing a mountain in Abadiño, I stopped to use the restroom and encountered a group of men cooking in the main building. They showed us the meat they were preparing, and gave us handfuls of chestnuts that they were cooking right over a fire. Such a lovely memory…

  42. Deena- oh Abadiño… So close to where I grew up! (about 20 km). What mountain did you clim? Anboto? Did you visit Urkiola? Some of my favorite spots. We go to Urkiola every summer when we go home. Now you got me missing home…:)

    Thank you!

  43. Now is also roasted chestnut time here in Zürich, Switzerland. I love them, not so fond of the sweet deserts made with them. Some years ago we travelled in Galicia around the time when they were ripening, and had to stop the car all the time to pick them up to take home and roast.

  44. Thank you for your beautiful photos. Your blog is so inspiring.

  45. Brilliant! I have never heard of chestnut flour -thanks for including the shopping link! The soup looks amazing and absolutely perfect for a winter afternoon -thanks for sharing!

  46. oh, that’s normal jam!! I thought it was something particular, with cream or other strange stuff in it.. I can easily find jam! Thanks :-)

  47. Sini says:

    I’ve only eaten roasted chestnuts so I’m excited to try new variations (especially the clafoutis!).

  48. I adore chestnuts! There really is something about them that seems so “right” this time of year. The soup looks beautiful and I can’t wait to try it out!

  49. Stephane says:

    WOW, just WOW!! Your pictures are incredible!

  50. Sini says:

    Today I made the clafoutis. Unfortunately my local deli ran out of chestnut flour so I had to use almond flour instead. The clafoutis turned out beautiful and delicious! I`ll make it with chestnut flour as soon as I get some…

  51. Simply stunning visuals…and of course made me very hungry!

  52. I love chestnuts too, Aran, such a life-sustaining tree. But I AM surprised they grow and fruit in Florida.

  53. Sylvie, those photos of the chestnut trees are from my uncle’s garden this summer :) I haven’t found chestnut trees around me but for some reason, I think I remember reading there were chestnut trees in northern florida. But no, the ones in the photos are from the basque country!

  54. Chelsea says:

    This blog is breathtaking!

    xxChels

  55. Parizhanka says:

    Thank you Aran for this delicious clafoutis! It makes my gluten-free life sweeter :) au plaisir d’une prochaine visite.

  56. Alyse Finlayson says:

    I love love love your new recipe book! I read through the whole book, leaving slips of colored paper to mark recipes to try for our holiday menus, desserts and daily meals. I wish I could share a photo of all the colors marking my way of organizing everything I want to try :)
    Thank you for such a wonderful culinary gift. Thanksgiving dinner was a huge success because of your hard work and creative master chef skills. And all the celiacs (including moi) in the family were so happy with the treats and delicious small plates!

    My question is concerning chestnut flour. Is there a favorite brand you prefer. I know nothing about it and want to try baking with it but I am stymied as to which brand to choose from the sources online. Is there a difference in grind and fineness like brown rice flour? Can I grind it myself in my vitamix?

    I live in the Seattle area, and I am hoping to source whole chestnuts to try roasted. I grew up with a huge chestnut tree in our backyard that left the gift of spines to pull out of our bare feet on summer days :) but we didn’t know that you could eat the nuts! Sad, eh?
    Thank you again for your wonderful gift to the world.

    • Aran says:

      Hi Alyse,

      Thank you very much for your kind words and so pleased to hear that you are enjoying the book. Makes my day. I get my chestnut flour online. I love this one, but I think there are many other great ones. You can make your own with the Vitamix (with the dry blad). Make sure you dehydrate the chestnuts (roast, peel and then dry them at low heat). Then grind them to a fine powder (even sift if needed).

      So great you love the book! xo

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