Lately I’ve been obsessed with couscous. I have no idea why, but suddenly I can’t get enough of it. It’s all the more strange because I’d never really eaten much couscous until one day, stuck for ideas on what to make for lunch I made a couscous salad, and now, I can’t stop eating it. So when I was sent some beautiful chestnuts last week I immediately thought I’d try them in a couscous salad along with mushrooms, silverbeet and thyme.
I’m sure we’ve all heard winter tales about chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but other than that I hadn’t had much to do with chestnuts. Chestnuts come from a deciduous tree, a member of the beech family. The chestnuts grow inside a prickly case called a burr and in autumn, when ripe, the burr splits open allowing the chestnuts to fall free, onto the ground, where they are collected. As I learned when I tried this salad, chestnuts are delicious, and being the nerd I am I couldn’t help but conduct some research to find out more about chestnuts. So, here are some interesting facts:
- Chestnuts are relatively low in calories when compared to other nuts and seeds and contain less fat but are rich in vitamins and minerals.
- They are exceptionally rich in vitamin-C with 100g of chestnuts providing 43 mg of vitamin C which is 72% of the recommended daily intake.
- The protein found in chestnuts is a high quality protein, comparable with eggs and is easily absorbed. Great news for vegetarians!
- Chestnuts do not contain gluten and chestnut flour can be used as a gluten free alternative in baking.
Don’t be frightened by chestnuts. I know I was, hearing they are difficult to peel and have a tendency to explode in the oven, but when dealt with correctly they are quite easy to handle. In order to enjoy a chestnut the outer shell and the inner inner skin, called the pellicle, must be removed. This can be achieved by scoring the nuts and placing them under a hot grill for 10 minutes or by boiling. the nuts whole for half an hour.
To make this salad simply grill the nuts and once the nuts have been grilled simply wrap them in a tea towel for 5 to 10 minutes before peeling. While the nuts are grilling prepare the salad and then chop the chestnuts roughly and scatter over the salad. Serve as a delicious healthy lunch, as I did, or as a side dish.
So tell me, have you tried chestnuts? And what is your current food obsession?
- 200g of couscous
- 250ml of hot vegetable stock
- 200g of mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small brown onion, peeled and sliced
- 1 cup of silverbeet (chard) leaves shredded
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 4 chestnuts
- 2 tsp of freshly picked thyme leaves
- salt and pepper
- Begin by preparing the chestnuts. Carefully score a cross into the flat side of the chestnuts with a sharp knife. Make sure the knife cuts through the outer shell of the chestnuts as this will help them peel back under the heat of the grill making the removal of the shell easier.
- Turn on the grill and place the chestnuts on a tray under the heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Keep an eye on them and you will notice the shell will start to peel back on the nuts. Don’t worry if parts of them burn as this is just the outer shell.
- Remove the chestnuts from the heat and wrap in a clean tea towel and when cool peel, making sure to remove the outer shell and the inner pellicle. Chop and set aside.
- Place the vegetable stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat and place the couscous in a large bowl and pour the hot stock over the top. Stir to combine and then cover with cling film and set aside.
- Place a frying pan over a medium low heat and add the olive oil and onions. Sautee the onions until they begin to slightly caramelise. Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, thyme and silverbeet, stir to combine and then remove from the heat before adding the lemon juice.
- Remove the cling film from the couscous and using a fork carefully fluff up the couscous. Add the mushroom mixture and along with the chestnuts and mix to combine. Adjust seasonings as necessary and serve warm or at room temperature.