When we were kids autumn was always an exciting time. We would go on foraging trips to find acorns, chestnuts and beech nuts. We would use the acorns and chestnuts to make little stick animals where we would use toothpicks to stick into the nuts to create arms and legs or whatever other weird creation we would come up with. The beech nuts we would eat. I haven’t eaten one in forever!!
The chestnuts we would find were mostly the kind you couldn’t eat. What we would call the wild chestnuts and then we had the ‘sweet chestnuts’ or ‘tamme kastanje’ which you could eat.
We would always just eat them raw, peeling them before we went home, checking for those little bugs and than popping in our eager mouths. Same with the beech nuts.
Acorns we would try and find as much as we could also when I was visiting my friend. Her parents had a big farm and the pigs loved to get acorns, so we found those by the bucket as the street opposite their farm was lined with big oaks.
We never did anything else with chestnuts or beech nuts. I’m not sure you can cook with beech nuts but I’m pretty sure by now that chestnuts are great to cook with. I brought home chestnut flour when I was in Italy and pretty soon you’ll find a fabulous cake recipe featuring that same flour, but other than that my experience with chestnuts was limited to our turkey stuffing adventure from last year. ( I can still feel my fingers from peeling all those hot chestnuts!)
It’s also not an ingredient that you find at every shop in town, so when I saw some last week I just had to get some. I used the chestnuts two ways; first in this delicious salad and later that same day for dinner in a mushroom risotto. In the salad it was delicious but I didn’t like it in the risotto. I think the sweetness didn’t really work to well with the mushrooms (I used chanterelle mushrooms ) and the texture of the chestnuts somehow was a little off putting.
This salad however is a different story. I quickly toasted the cooked and peeled chestnuts in a little bit of oil to give them a crunch and paired with the nutty flavor of the spelt that worked great. What is absolutely loved in this salad was the smoked raw ham. It was called ‘black forest smoked ham’ and had a pretty strong smoke flavor which was just delicious.