The changing seasons is always an exciting time in the culinary year, so many new foods coming into season! One of those I await most eagerly each autumn is chestnuts, and the first dish I make with them is this mushroom and chestnut gratin.
I love chestnuts, but be warned they are very time consuming to peel. Don't get too excited if you find Easy-To-Peel chestnuts as I have only ever found one place which sells Easy-To-Peel chestnuts which are in fact easy to peel (if you're in Canberra, it's Featherdale Chestnuts at the Capital Region Farmers Market). Good company, good music or a TV show in the background can make it more tolerable if you have particularly stubborn chestnuts. Also, don't worry if your chestnuts break up while peeling them, you'll be chopping them for this recipe anyway.
For a vegan or dairy/lactose-free version, omit the parmesan.
- 500g chestnuts, peeled* and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 1 cup fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted**
- olive oil
- 500g mushrooms, cut into quarters, halves or left whole, depending on size (you want bite-size pieces, keeping in mind they will shrink a little as they cook.)
- salt (optional)
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
*A good set of instructions on how to peel chestnuts can be found at Italian Food Forever. There are two minor modifications I would recommend to their method: 1. I use a stanley knife to score the chestnuts; and 2. I'd suggest wearing rubber gloves on one or both hands while removing the peel, as it will come away most easily when the chestnut is straight out of the boiling water and very hot.
**Be careful when toasting pine nuts, they will burn readily
Preheat oven to 180˚C (350 F).
Place chestnuts and stock in a small saucepan over medium heat and simmer until the chestnuts are tender but not mushy, 5-10 minutes. Add the parsley and pine nuts and mix to combine.
Meanwhile, brush a baking dish (large enough to hold all the mushrooms and chestnuts) lightly with olive oil, and spread mushrooms over the base. Season with salt and pepper (if your stock is quite salty, only use pepper here. Spoon chestnuts and their cooking liquid over the top. Sprinkle with parmesan.
Bake in the oven until parmesan has melted and mushrooms have cooked, about half an hour. If the parmesan starts to brown before the mushrooms are cooked, cover dish with a sheet of alfoil, pricked in a couple of places to let the steam out. Serve immediately.