At Bloom, we love the Taoist Five Element approach. This inspires both our courses and the way we cook in our own lives.
Using the five element system as a guide to support health, is an intuitive and logical way to work with self-care. At this time of the year, the body is going to be much more responsive to nutritional support for the water element and kidney health. This is where the chestnuts come in!
The edible part is locked deep within their a spiky outer shell, a hard inner shell and a layer of thin skin. The chestnut is rich, nutrient dense, meaty and earthy. The kind of qualities in a food that the body loves in winter.
Their delicate sweet taste also acts on the spleen and stomach, meaning that they also benefit the earth element and work well in sweet dishes and desserts.
How to prepare Chestnuts
* If buying from a store the chestnuts will be free from the spiky outer shell. Look for ones that are ripe and plump, with no blemishes on the skin.
* Using a sharp knife, carefully cut an X on the flat end of the chestnut. Pierce down to the meat otherwise they can explode when cooking. This will also help the shell come off more easily once cooked.
* Boil them or roast in the oven and then peel. Boiling takes around 1o minutes, in the oven 30 minutes and 10 minutes on an open fire They are delicious when roasted over an open fire but if you do not have access to that then the oven is fine.
* Once you have them peeled and ready to go, you can eat as they are or get creative with some of the suggestions below or your own ideas
* If you really wanted to go for it, you could dry them and then grind into flour. If this seems like too much hassle then you can buy chestnut flour, which gives an amazing flavour to cakes, biscuits, cookies, pastas and gnocchi.
What do they combine well with?
Brussels sprouts – perfect for Christmas dinner!
Seaweed and shiitake mushrooms – a potent blend of nutrients perfect for the kidneys
Onions, leeks, garlic, ginger, cabbage, celery and carrots
Pork – inc bacon, pancetta and sausages
Other meats – such as chicken, turkey, duck and venison
Spices such as cinnamon, clove, cardamom, nutmeg or bayleaf, thyme and sage
Apples and prunes
Ideas for dishes
Use for soups, stews, cakes, porridges, with veggies such as brussels sprouts or cabbage for side dishes, or in stuffing and risotto.
Our current favourite – Chestnut Soup Recipe
Recently, for us, this soup is really hitting the spot.
It is not an exact recipe, just a guide, so don’t worry too much about quantities. If you make too much you can always freeze it.
This soup is delicious topped with things like sauteed mushrooms, toasted seeds with tamari and steamed greens.
Leeks or onions
Potato or sweet potato (white or orange variety)
Chestnuts – prepared and cooked
Water or stock (veg is fine or chicken stock works really well)
Coconut oil, butter or ghee
Sea salt, tamari or namu shoyu to season
* Optional – seaweed such as dulse or wakame
* Dice all your veg in advance before starting the soup and make sure your chestnuts are cooked and peeled
* Heat a little butter, ghee or coconut oil in a saucepan
* Add the leeks or onion and saute on a low flame until soft and transparent. Add splashes of water if starting to stick to create a steam.
* Add the garlic, bayleaf and sage, celery, carrots, potato or sweet potato and stir well. Saute for approx 3 minutes
* Add water or stock to just cover the ingredients
* Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer
* At this stage add any seaweed if you want to include – as much as you like
* Once the vegetables are just cooked, add the chestnuts
* Simmer for a further 10 minutes. Add a little salt or tamari and black pepper to season. Blend until smooth and creamy
* Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary
* Serve with toppings of your choice, a piece of sourdough bread or alongside brown rice
We also love to make sweet pastes or creams by blending the cooked chestnuts (roasted or boiled) with a little maple syrup or honey and spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger. You can eat it just as it is or spread on crackers, a piece of seasonal fruit such as apple or pear, use as a sweetener in a cake recipe, or stir it through porridge.
For more winter warmer recipes and our top tips on seasonal health care visit our blogs page.
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