With his Italian background, Aussie chef Stefano Manfredi is coming to the rescue, revealing how to cook with chestnuts.
"Chestnuts have been grown in Australia for over a hundred years, but unless you've got a Mediterranean heritage or you know somebody that's got that heritage or you've really persevered, you won't really know how to use chestnuts."
And for those who have tried chestnuts, it's usually been on the streets of European cities where they're roasted and eaten as a warming winter treat.
But most Australians leave chestnuts off the shopping list because they don't know how to prepare or cook them. According to Jane Casey, spokesperson for the Australian chestnut industry, one in three Australians have never tasted a chestnut - and with an average price of $4.99 per kilo, cost is no excuse.
"They're extremely versatile, and once you know how to crack the nut, so to speak, you can use them in lots of different ways," says Manfredi, who has fond memories of eating them as a boy in Italy.
Leading chef and owner of Sydney's Balla and the Central Coast's Manfredi at Bells restaurants, Manfredi says now that chestnuts are in season, he's using them all through his menus.
"This winter, I am challenging Australians to try chestnuts in three simple ways. Score and roast chestnuts for a delicious pre-dinner snack. Boil, peel and add chestnuts to soups to thicken and flavour them as an alternative to potato. Or grill, peel and puree with sugar and water for a sweet alternative to jam for your toast at breakfast," he says.
There are number of ways to eat a chestnut. The first, in true Aussie style, is to roast or grill the chestnut, which enhances the nutty flavour and gives the flesh a richer colour. Other recipes require chestnuts to be boiled, which keeps the nutty flesh soft and pale.
"My favourite way to enjoy chestnuts is as a sumptuous stuffing for roast turkey breasts. Roughly chop peeled chestnuts and combine with breadcrumbs, butter, garlic, parmesan, parsley and Italian mustard fruits, season and fill turkey breasts generously. It's winter comfort food at it's best," he says.
"Because the nut is sweet, it's really good with pork too," he says.
CHESTNUTS, BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND PANCETTA
Serves 6-8 as an accompaniment to grilled or roast chicken, duck or quail.
300g of chestnuts
Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
50g pancetta, sliced
350g Brussels sprouts, sliced into 6-8 pieces top to bottom
1/4 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper
To prepare the chestnuts, score the skin of each with a sharp knife and place them in a pot of cold water with a couple of pinches of salt.
Bring to the boil and drain them immediately. Allow them to cool a little, and then peel. They peel better when still warm.
In a pan heat the extra virgin olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, pancetta, Brussels sprouts and the chestnuts.
Lightly fry for 7-8 minutes until the Brussels sprouts soften.
Add the parsley, then season with salt and pepper and serve.
By Julia Carlisle