The first time I've tried chestnuts was in Paris and actually (I know it's sacrilegious) I didn't think much of them. In one of the beautiful jardins I helped myself to a crepe with a chestnut filling. I was rather unimpressed, the chestnut filling felt too sweet and bland. The second time I've tried chestnuts was in Budapest in the magical Nandori Cukraszda (patisserie) - my choice was Hungarian specialty gesztenyepüré - chestnut puree looking like spaghetti served with whipped cream... and I fell in love with them.
The smell of the roasted chestnuts evokes the Christmas atmosphere right in the middle of November.
I love them simply warm, roasted/ baked in the oven or as a filling for pancakes (Hungarian chestnut pancakes - gesztenyés palacsinta).
A tip on buying fresh chestnuts: choose the ones with dark and shiny skin. They should feel firm and hard - it's beacause they have a high water content. If they're soft, off-colour, dry - they'll be probably rotten inside so avoid them.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Make two cuts in the shape of an X in the more curvy of a chestnut with a sharp knife - in the process of baking the skin will "open" revealing the chestnut and making peeling it very easy. It will also allow the water to evaporate. Place the chestnuts cut side up (flat side down) on a baking pan lined with baking paper. Sprinkle a bit of water on them. Roast for about 20 minutes. The chestnuts are ready when shells begin to peel back and the inside is soft. (If you bake them too long, chestnuts will become stone hard!). Take them out from the oven and let them cool down for few minutes (unless your hands are made of asbestos or you just cannot wait any longer to taste the chestnuts - like me ;) ). Enjoy this yummy snack :)
Mix in a bowl 2 eggs, 2 spoons of vegetable oil, 1 glass (250ml) of milk and pinch of salt together. Still mixing add a glass of all-purpose flour and around half a glass of water to achieve the right consistency. Warm up the teflon frying pan with just a teaspoon of vegetable oil, then lower the heat to 4-5 (maximum on my cooker is 6) and fry the pancakes. There's no need to add any more oil for frying.
Take 25 dkg (250g) of chestnut puree* & mix with a handheld mixer. Mix in 7 tablespoons of plum mousse** (or some other jam, the more liquid and sour the better), 50g of finely ground sugar, 1 package of vanilla sugar with real vanilla, 1 tablespoon (15ml) of lemon juice, add 50g of soft, but not yet liquid butter and 4 tablespoons of milk.
Spread the chestnut filling on a pancake then roll it. You can warm it up a bit on a frying pan or in the oven/microwave if it cooled down, if not, just serve with a bit of icing sugar or some plum mousse.
*In Hungary you have a plenty of choice of ready ones. They're sold frozen, so before using them for pancakes you need to leave them for a night to defrost. You can also try out using crème de marron - chestnut puree with vanilla, sold in jars. For sure you'll find it in a good foodstore.
**my mum's specialty - recipe coming soon together with the recipe for an autumn cheescake.