Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Chestnuts galore in Italy

courtesy of Fir0002/Flagstaffotos via wikipedia
We like to go to Italy in the autumn. It extends the summer for us, and reduces the winter season.  We stay high in the Tuscan hills in small towns and preferably family run hotels. Being in the hills you are virtually guaranteed lots of walking with lovely views and forest trails. Primarily our visits are to see the wonderful architecture and art, soak up the atmosphere and ambience, and enjoy the food.  
The Tuscan mountain top village of Gavinana
H loves wandering through the forests at that time of year when the chestnuts are thick on the ground. He is a great one for gathering things from the wild and sets about collecting chestnuts for us to bring back home. We usually return home with a small rucksack full of the brown shinny gems, which we turn into wonderful soup, and stuffing at Christmas time. You can make a dessert from chestnut puree, and they make a delicious combination with pork or sausage dishes.
On our last visit we discovered that you can buy a special shallow pan with holes in the bottom to cook chestnuts over hot coals, but knowing that I had something similar at home, we did not get one.  When we returned home we set up the BBQ, but for some reason the charcoal was playing up, or perhaps it was me. It looked as if it was going to rain, and I ended up bringing the nuts inside and putting them in the oven. After a short while there was suddenly an almighty explosion, followed quickly by another and another.  I shouted for H to come to my rescue, where upon he grabbed the tray and ran across the kitchen to exit through the patio doors. As he ran the nuts carried on exploding all over the kitchen, I later found them on top of the cupboards and shelves, under the furniture and all over the floor.  The glass window in the oven was completely obscured by exploded nuts, it was such a mess. Once outside, I could still hear and see them firing off for several minutes, showering the patio and garden. Yes, we had forgotten to make a slit in the skins - it took me about 8 hours to clear up the debris, and I vowed never again do I want to see a chestnut.
Why is it that whenever you buy a poke of roasted chestnuts from a street vendor, you squeeze them, the insides pop out, warm, whole, and ready to eat.  Roast them yourself, and they will not crack open, and come out in little bits or with the husk still attached?

16 comments:

  1. Hello Rosemary:
    We cannot think of a more perfect way to spend time at the approach of winter than to be in the Tuscan hills. Italy is, in our view, such a wonderful country, steeped in history, containing the most glorious countryside and full, as you say, of the finest architecture and art. And how lovely to experience it when the summer visitors have fled. Like you, we much prefer small, simple hotels where one is unlikely to meet up with trippers en masse.

    What a disaster where the chestnuts were concerned. Not to be tried! And soon the chestnut sellers will be once more on street corners here; we shall content ourselves with that.

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  2. Hello Jane and Lance- Once Italy has been experienced, it gets under your skin, and becomes a 'must return again place'. We like the family run hotels because they serve you the local regional dishes, and as you mention are free of trippers.

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  3. That first sentence is so wonderful. If only we could go to Italy every year. We have been once in 2003. The chestnut story is funny from this end but I can just imagine the mess. Thanks for telling me about the Shawnee. I have now learned a lot about that pottery and will be keeping a look out for it too.

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  4. Dear Olive - thanks for stopping by. I suppose that we are fortunate in that Italy is only a 2 - 3 hour flight away. You did very well with your vase in getting it for such a good price.

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  5. Thanks for a good laugh; it reminds me of a time when family friends invited me for a crab dinner. They lived on the Chesapeake Bay and had caught the crabs themselves. The crabs went into a pot of water that slowly heated up, but not before the poor crabs fought their way out and ran in every direction. There was complete mayhem and screaming, and the crabs weren't too happy either!

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  6. A great post and two very beautiful pictures. Wonderful work.

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  7. That is a really good story Mark - these things are always funny in retrospect, if not at the time. I can just imagine the crabs running away and everyone screaming.

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  8. Dear Fotokarusellen - pleased you enjoyed the post and pictures, thank you.

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  9. bellas fotos en su blog, grandes paisajes de gran bretaña. saludos

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  10. Oh, that village, Rosemary! Just beautiful!

    And I feel a spot of street vendor research coming on. Next time I spot a chestnut stall I'm asking him your question :-)

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  11. Saludos Oteador - thank you for your lovely comments.

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  12. Kate if you find the answer let me know. I have the suspicion that there are different varieties of chestnut, and we always end up with the wrong kind.

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  13. Dear Rosemary, I picked so many chestnuts last year, wearing thick gloves to avoid the outer spikes. But what a battle to rid them of their jackets - sheer frustration. This year they will be coming out of a tin!

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  14. What a good idea Rosemary - my trouble is, I know that H will be unable to resist gathering the harvest as per usual - he loves things from the wild and when they are free, even better!

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  15. I've never tried roasted chestnuts... must give them a taste!
    Tuscany is just wonderful... I spent a very happy week there a few years back, based in the Garfagnana region. I especially enjoyed exploring Lucca and Barga, and the great city of Florence.

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  16. Dear Nat chestnut soup is absolutely delicious. I love Lucca and also nearby Pistoia, both being rich in wonderful art and architecture but without so many tourists.

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