It was on a cold winter’s night in Sarajevo when I saw the street vendor on the corner of the street. He was roasting sweet chestnuts on a small fire. I bought some and he wrapped them up in a piece of newspaper. They were still warm which was nice for my hands against the cold air. I peeled one open and tasted the warm sweetness of the chestnut. Yummie, I love chestnuts!
This was actually not the first time I ate sweet chestnuts. When I was younger I used to collect them with my family sometimes. If autumn would have a flavor I would say it would taste like chestnuts. They have a sweet earthy flavor which works very comforting. They taste like a cozy evening at home with candles, while it is raining outside.
Chestnuts are extremely healthy. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and fibers. It is the only nut that contains a lot of vitamin C and compared to other nuts, they are low in calories. Chestnuts are highly nutritious and very good for your blood.
October is the right time to pick them. By this time, the very spiky shells open up so the nuts can fall out. Be sure you do not pick the horse chestnut which is poisonous. The sweet chestnut has many, very thin needles while the horse chestnut has fewer and less pointier spikes. You can store sweet chestnuts for about a month on a cool place and six months in the freezer. Put them in a bucket of water before you use them because the ones that are coming to the surface are not edible anymore.
Sweet chestnuts are very popular when roasted but they are also perfect for a mash. When I took a walk in the forest lately, I found a sweet chestnut tree with lots of chestnuts on the ground. I took them home and decided to make a chestnut mash with a grilled steak and smoky Brussel sprouts and it turned out to be great. Here is the recipe.
Chestnut Mash with Grilled Beef and Smoky Brussel Sprouts
Ingredients for 2 persons
For the mash:
- 500g chestnuts
- 100ml cream
- 1 liter of milk
- 1 small teaspoon of sugar
- Salt and pepper
For the beef and Brussel sprouts:
- 2 steaks
- olive oil
- 2 teaspoons of fresh chopped thyme
- 300g Brussel sprouts
- Salt and pepper
Wash the chestnuts and carve a cross in them with a knife (this makes it easier to peel them later). Put them in a pan with enough milk to cover them all and boil them for 30 minutes in the milk. In the meanwhile you can cut the bottoms of the brussel sprouts and boil them for two minutes in water.
Now mix the thyme with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, some salt and pepper and cover the beef with a layer of the mixture. Heat up a grill pan and grill the steaks for about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Wrap the steaks in aluminium foil when they are done and let them rest for a couple of minutes. Cut the mushrooms into quarters.
Peel the chestnuts when they are done them and mash them in a pan. (I suggest you peel them when you are grilling the steaks.) Add the cream, the teapoon of sugar, some salt and pepper and a little bit of milk. Heat it again and stir everything until it looks like a mash. Add milk if you think it is too dry. Put some olive oil in a frying pan and add the Brussel sprouts and the mushrooms. Fry them a couple of minutes until the mushrooms are done. Put everything on a plate and enjoy!
Project ‘Cooking With Wild Ingredients’ is a part of On My Way To Freedomland as an inspiration to bring us closer to earth again. In order to grow, we first need strong roots. Many aspects of modern society are clouding our relationship with nature and are cutting us from the connection with earth.
Without our roots we are floating, lost and stuck with a feeling that we are not in charge of our own lives. It leaves us insecure because we are afraid to fall. But knowing that there is always an earth to rely on can take these fears away and can make you feel safe and confident again. No matter what choice in life you make, there is always an earth to fall back to. Earth is always providing and is just like for plants, it is also the soil for your roots.
Once you feel this relationship again, you will realize that most of your fears are actally based on nothing and you will find more strength to create the life you want. Finding and making your own food, directly from nature can help to restore your relationship with the earth and besides that, food always tastes better if you have picked the ingredients yourself! It is super organic!
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