Mountainous parts of France and Italy seem to yield the plumpest chestnuts . Our home-grown ones are never a match for size and, when you have pounds to prepare for a party, or for the Christmas stuffing, size does matter. (Vacuum packed, shelled chestnuts are a good quality alternative.)
Chestnuts do not contain much oil and traditionally were ground to produce a form of flour which is still used in some regions of Italy. Marrons glacés are a much better known form: these are candied chestnuts.
How to peel chestnuts: Not a particularly easy job this, but the best method I have come across is as follows: rinse the chestnuts, then make a small incision in the flat side of the shell of each nut. Place them in a saucepan with cold water to cover, bring to the boil and boil gently for 10 minutes or so. Take the pan off the heat and use a draining spoon to remove the chestnuts from the water two or three at a time.
Peel these before removing the next batch. Take care to remove the inner skin from the crevices in the chestnuts – you will have to break the nut apart to do so, but for making a soup this won't matter.
Ready-cooked chestnuts allow you to make this quck, easy, low-fat soup in no time at all and you'll be well rewarded: the chestnuts add richness and a sweet flavour for a perfect winter soup.
A superb alternative to turkey at Christmas and throughout the game season, this pheasant dish is crammed with robust flavours and wintry sustenance.
Venison lends itself to slow cooking with other wintry ingredients such as mushrooms, bacon and chestnuts. The Madeira sauce gives it plenty of richness too, resulting in a dish that's truly sensational and perfect for Christmas.
Light and lovely, this chocolate chestnut log would make a great centrepiece at a Christmas party.
This gorgeous stuffing recipe is proof that some of the old ones are the best! If you don't like peeling chestnuts, look out for vacuum-packed ones for speed and ease.