Tuesday 21 October 2014



October welcomes the season of all nuts. This sweet and nutty chestnut soft to the bite (which is really a fruit  technically) is no exception to this rule.  

Available pureed, canned, dried, powdered and vacum packed it is also on shelves as a spread and even chestnut butter!! It is perfect to use in soups, sauces, desserts, salads and bread.

They were my dad's favourite, and he always stopped to buy freshly roasted chestnuts in a brown paper bag, warm and toasty, the aromas enticing us to instantly eat them while strolling through the streets of London on a cold autumn or winter evening. The song "Roasting Chestnuts on an Open Fire" is stuck in my head. At the time, I hardly knew about writing or publishing books, let alone the hours of research I would enjoy as I gracefully aged. When I moved to the West, I had access to these delicious treats. I developed a chestnut soup, which was then shared in my e-book and served at a William Sonoma store in Toronto when I launched Niloufer's Kitchen there, which was much appreciated.
One Christmas, I made a delectable chestnut salad. To my surprise, I made an excellent almond and chestnut crust for my chocolate and strawberry gluten-free tart and used the chestnut flour in a curry. Finally, I used it to make a tiramisu. I had no idea that chestnuts-shaah baloot/shaah balut, grow in the heart of where my ancestors come from, where my roots are, and how essential this small nut is to my cookbook, which follows the "route" to my cuisine through the years. From Pars to India and beyond.

This recipe for the salad, combines the warmth of flavour, textures, and colour. They appear to be a perfect match. It is suitable for Yalda, the longest night of the year celebrated by the people from ancient Persia, wherever they have chosen to call home. It also happens to coincide with the longest night of the year, nearing Christmas, and makes it ideal for a festive table. Its ingredients are easily interchangeable. 

The French are well known to produce a Marron Glace` from this special nut to create their sweet trolleys. It pairs beautifully with dry Sherry when preparing a soup or an ice cream and compliments game meats such as goose and rabbit rather perfectly. 

The chestnut is found in a casing; called the burr. Smooth from the outside, it has a fuzzy furriness from the inside. The chestnut sits in this comfortable cover. When fresh it fits in well. As it grows older it becomes drier and shrivels up leaving this snug fit and  can start rattling within. Check the chestnut by giving it a good shake to ensure its freshness. 

To prepare it at home always make an indentation on each piece by snipping it or it will burst open; splattering all over. It can be boiled for a couple of minutes or cooked on the stove top roasting it to perfection. It can be cooked in the oven too. Removing the nut from within its shell can be time consuming and is easiest while still warm. New Year, Christmas and Thanksgiving  gatherings traditionally serve roasted chestnuts to enjoy together as an after dinner treat.

Freshly picked Chestnuts available at the Local St Lawrence Market Toronto.

Edible seeds of the Chestnut tree, this nut is one of the oldest at over 3000 years old. Legend has it that it was first cultivated in what is present day Turkey and its surrounding areas of Mesopotamia and the regions of Asia Minor. It was then taken further West to Mediterranean Europe where the Greeks and Italians in particular used it to their advantage through storing it well. Very high in carbohydrates and starch as well has having natural sugars it is a healthy nutritious food.  It especially helped their armies survive during long wars and also assisted their population during food shortages. 

It is now grown in a variety of countries and has a distinct number of species; Also referred to by other names. "Chestnut" emerges from the Chesten Nut which also leads back to the French word Chataigne. Europe and Korea currently lead in producing these age old morsels of delight.

Further research shows this to be a native of ancient Persia. Azerbaijan continues to include chestnuts in its most popular dish called the Shakh Pilaf  - crown or king of pilafs. It is considered their signature dish. the name was derived from the way it is served resembling the crown. A traditional rice dish included at wedding ceremonies. Other names for it are Shah Pilaf and Khan Pilaf 
Persians make the nar quvarmasi with pomegranate and chestnut and their baqali/baghali palao with fava beans, saffron, dill and chestnuts.

In the Arboretum Today
By Alfredo Chiri

CHESTNUT - Castanea sativa - Fagaceae

Var. hybrid donated by: CRFG/Haluza and planted in 1981 (r.f.-09)

Var. Spanish donated by: CRFG/Haluza and planted in 1981 (r.f.-09)

Common names: Spanish Chestnut, Castaña Española, European chestnut

"The European chestnut is probably a native of western Asia, from Iran to the Balkans, where it has been cultivated for more than 3000 years. The European chestnut is now called Spanish chestnut, as it has become naturalized throughout southern Europe from Spain to the Caucus." from 

For an e-cookbook containing my delicious chestnut soup click

Niloufer's Kitchen: Winter

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