Gowland or Chestnuts, these are actually from China but becoming more and more popular in Thailand, obviously we have been eating these in Europe for years and years as we grow them there.

From the BBC.

Chestnuts are shiny brown nuts whose thick casing has long, sharp, needle-like spikes (burrs). There are usually two to four nuts per casing. Unlike other nuts, chestnuts have a high starch and water content but low protein and fat levels. They've never been as popular in British kitchens as in Continental ones, but they're a versatile and flavourful storecupboard ingredient. Chestnuts are available fresh, ground, dried, puréed or vacuum-packed.

Ground chestnut (chestnut flour) has a sweet strong flavour and a slightly pasty texture when cooked. Dried chestnuts lend a smoky flavour and robustness of character to soups or stews. There are two types of puréed chestnut: sweetened and unsweetened, which are used in sweet and savoury dishes respectively (the sweetened version is used in the classic Mont Blanc). Vacuum-packed chestnuts are of variable quality. The best are made from whole, unbroken nuts and work well in soups, stuffings, stews and sauces.


To peel chestnuts, soak them in water for 30 minutes, then score each with a small knife down the plump side. Roast at 225C/425F/Gas 7 for about 25 minutes. Keep warm with a tea towel while you peel away the hard outer shell and the softer inner brown skin (warm nuts peel more easily than cold ones). For a faster method, slit the rounded shell of the nut, bring to the boil in plenty of cold water and cook for 20 minutes. Leave the nuts in the hot water so that they stay warm and soft as you peel.

Dried chestnuts must be soaked in water for at least eight hours before cooking. Chestnut flour tastes best mixed with other flours: allow about ten per cent chestnut flour in bread (it has no gluten so won't rise on its own). Mix to taste in cakes, batters and biscuits or add a small amount to pasta doughs.

Loin of venison with spiced pears, Brussels sprouts and chestnut purée

For the venison

8 slices Parma ham
olive oil
4 x 90g/3¼oz portions venison loin
4 tsp Dijon mustard

For the Brussels sprouts

1 litre/1¾ pints chicken stock
500g/1lb 2oz Brussels sprouts
75g/2¾oz bacon lardons

For the chestnut purée

splash olive oil
100g/3½oz vacuum-packed chestnuts
150ml/5fl oz chestnut liqueur (also known as crème de chataigne)
500ml/18fl oz milk
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the spiced pears

2 Conference pears, peeled, cores removed, flesh sliced lengthways (cover the pear slices in acidulated water to keep them from going brown, if necessary)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp nutmeg, grated
1 tbsp olive oil

Preparation method

For the venison, preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Lay the slices of Parma ham onto a baking tray and bake for 15 minutes, or until crisp. Set aside to cool. Once cool, crush into crumbs (this can also be done in a food processor.)

Reduce the oven temperature to 55C/130F/Gas ¼.

Heat a splash of olive oil in an ovenproof frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add the venison loins and fry for 30-45 seconds on each side, until evenly browned on all sides. Transfer to the oven and roast for 30 minutes.

Remove the venison loins from the oven and paint all over with the Dijon mustard, using a pastry brush.

Sprinkle the Parma ham crumbs onto a plate and roll the venison loins in the crumbs to coat. Return the coated loins to the oven and cook for a further 5 minutes.

Remove the venison loins from the oven and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, for the Brussels sprouts, bring the chicken stock to the boil in a saucepan.

Add the sprouts and boil for 10 minutes, then drain and slice the sprouts lengthways.

Heat a dry frying pan over a medium to high heat and add the bacon lardons. Fry until the fat has been released and the lardons are golden-brown.

Add the sliced Brussels sprouts to the pan and fry until golden-brown, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep warm until needed.

For the chestnut purée, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the chestnuts and chestnut liqueur and cook for a 2-3 minutes.

Pour in the milk and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the chestnuts are soft.

Blend the mixture using a hand-held stick blender until smooth. Strain the purée through a fine sieve. Add a little more milk to loosen the purée if necessary. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm until ready to serve.

For the spiced pears, drain the pear slices (if necessary).

Mix the cinnamon, cumin and nutmeg together in a bowl and coat the pears in the spice mixture.

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the spiced pears and fry gently for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until softened and golden-brown.

To serve, carve each venison loin into slices. Spoon a circle of chestnut purée into the centre of each serving plate. Place a portion of the spiced pears on top of each. Top with the venison slices. Spoon the Brussels sprouts and bacon mixture alongside.

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