Chestnut Soup Time

With the cooler weather and a distinct chill in the air it’s time for the warmth and nourishment of chestnut soup. I usually make our family favourite a classic chestnut soup with onion, leek, celery, potato and chestnuts of course! Here is the link to the recipe

http://www.growlerscreekgrove.com.au/Recipes/Chestnut%20soup.pdf

But I was feeling adventurous and our new neighbours mantra was ringing in my ears ….”I’m putting chestnuts in everything”…so I decided to make a sweet potato, coconut cream and chestnut soup.

The soup was a big hit….filled us all up for dinner and our kids (aged 7 and 8) devoured the soup and asked for more! The chestnuts thicken the soup add a creamy nutty flavour and make the soup both nourishing and filling.

Sweet Potato, Chestnut and Coriander Soup

Sweet Potato, Chestnut and Coriander Soup

Sweet Potato, Chestnut and Coriander Soup

500g Sweet Potato (peeled and diced)

700g Fresh Chestnuts

4 French Shallots (finely diced)

30 ml Olive Oil (I used Cobram Estate Garlic infused olive oil)

Lemon grass (I used Gourmet Garden lemon grass paste – 1 teaspoon) – equivalent to 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh lemon grass

Bunch of Fresh Coriander (stems and leaves chopped) Reserve a few leaves for garnish

400ml Can Coconut Milk

1 litre Chicken Stock

Salt and Pepper

Score the chestnuts, roast and peel.

http://www.growlerscreekgrove.com.au/prepare_cook.html

Fry the shallots, lemon grass and coriander in the olive oil.

Add the sweet potato and chestnuts, cook for about 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and chicken stock, bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes.

Blend.

Season and serve garnished with some coriander leaves.

Serves four hungry chestnut pickers.

This soup is gluten free, packed with beta-carotene (Vitamin A), contains Vitamin C, lots of fibre, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin D just to name a few….this soup is good for you.

 

 

 

Torta di Castagne (Chestnut Cake)

I have a confession to make…after 17 years of growing chestnuts I have finally made my first Torta di Castagne (chestnut cake). So why did it take me so many years to attempt this…well two excuses time and fear. I’m not a great cake maker…you know common problems the cake stodgy or sunken in the middle and the big one…the cake sticking to the pan and falling apart! Well I faced my fears and the cake was a huge success…beautifully cooked and in one piece…oh and delicious!

This cake is easy to make, gluten free and very moreish!

Torta di Castagne

Torta di Castagne

Torta di Castagne

100g Almond Meal

230g Caster Sugar

100g Good Quality Dark Chocolate (70% cocoa)

800g Fresh Chestnuts

2 Cups Milk

4 Eggs Separated

100g Unsalted Butter

Grated Zest of Half an Orange

Butter and line a 23cm spring form cake tin.

Pre-heat the oven, 160 degrees celsius (fan forced), 180 degrees regular oven.

Peel the chestnuts using a potato peeler (make sure you remove the bitter inner skin to reveal the cream chestnut), chop the chestnuts. Add chopped chestnuts to saucepan with one cup of the milk, simmer until tender (about 15  minutes), add more milk if required.

In the meantime grate the chocolate and add to the almond meal, combine. Melt the butter over low heat, set aside to cool.

When tender pass the chestnuts through a sieve. I left a few chopped pieces of chestnut to give more structure to the cake. The result a chestnut puree with small chopped pieces. When cool add the chestnut puree to the almond and chocolate, combine.

In a large bowl beat the egg yolks and sugar until thick. Add the cool melted butter, combine. Add the chestnut mixture and orange zest, combine.

Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, fold into the chestnut mixture.

Pour the chestnut mixture into the cake tin over the back of a wooden spoon (folds in more air). Make sure the cake mixture is level in the tin.

Bake in the centre of the oven for one hour.

Remove from oven, allow to cool for 15 minutes. Carefully remove the cake from the pan and cool on a wire rack.

Dust with icing sugar and serve with or without cream.

Enjoy!

 

Peel Chestnuts

Peel Chestnuts

 

 

Slice of Chestnut Cake

Slice of Chestnut Cake

History of Growlers Creek Grove

We have been caretakers of our grove for the last 17 years and have never forgotten why we fell in  love with our property….it was the magnificent stand of  nine 140 year old chestnut trees that stand in a row overlooking the Wandi Valley. Over time we have been putting together pieces of a puzzle to answer a simple question……..who planted the trees?

140 year old chestnut trees

140 year old chestnut trees

It all started with an aerial photo of Wandi that was probably taken in the early 1920’s. The stand of nine trees are clearly visible in this photo, thus they were well established trees. We examined buildings in the photo, studied history of  Wandiligong (formerly Growlers Creek) in an attempt to date the photo.  We seemed to be getting nowhere and turned our attention to looking after the trees, removing dead branches and suckers. This lead to our next piece of the puzzle….Rohan painstakingly counted the growth rings on a branch of one of our trees that had died 20 to 30 years ago. The thickness of the growth rings were studied and we used Bright rainfall records to determine the most likely year that the branch started growing. This gave us a year 1894! The dead branch that we were studying was 4 meters off the ground suggesting a planting year of circa 1874.

But our question still remained unanswered….who planted the trees?

A title search gave us a surprising result our property was first owned in 1945, prior to this it was crown land. The first owner was Charles Williams. Charles was born in 1878, he married Edith in 1912 and moved into the house that was built by the Tobias family on Williams Road. This house and land abuts Growlers Creek Grove, Charles must have leased this land for farming and in 1912 he planted chestnut trees and an orchard on the flat near Williams Road  and the track to our property which is fittingly called Tobias Track. We have been in contact with his descendants, his grand-daughter  Alison and son in-law Lewis. They have fond memories of Wandiligong, the vegetable patch, fruit and apple orchard and of course the majestic chestnut trees. Alison recalls enjoying roasted chestnuts cooked on an open fire by her grand father Charles ….this was a treat before they went to bed. We have invited Lewis and Alison to our Grove and are looking forward to meeting them.

Charles Williams

Charles Williams

Charles planted the old chestnut trees on the lower portion of our grove….but who planted the stand of nine trees up on the hill?

Who would have planted chestnut trees on land that they did not own?

We believe that an Italian immigrant planted the trees. Antonio Masciorini came to Australia in 1859 from Ticino, and Italian Region in Switzerland. In 1867 he purchased Mantons Drapery Store on the corner of Williams Road and Morses Creek. Antonio lived at these premises, less than 500 meters from the chestnut trees planted high on our block.

The Ticino region has been a chestnut area for thousands of years where they have forests of chestnuts castagneti (chestnut woods). Here chestnuts grow on Crown land, on steep slopes in Northern Italy where they have cold winters and warm summers, well-drained soil and plenty of rain. Foraging for chestnuts in these woods is a family and cultural tradition.

An Italian immigrant would naturally want to recreate this nostalgia in their new home at Growlers Creek (Wandiligong), Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

La Fiera Gala Dinner

On Friday night we enjoyed great company, good local wine and fabulous food at the La Fiera, Fiera Cena di Gala. It was the perfect way to celebrate the end of our chestnut harvest.

The food was delicious…that depth of flavour that lingers in your mouth…it’s the reason you eat out, to enjoy great food made from fresh seasonal ingredients that has been prepared with skill, care and passion.

Stefano Manfredi and Cameron Cansdell from Manfredi at Bells (Bells at Killcare), just north of Sydney prepared the feast. Every dish contained chestnuts ….. the food was amazing.

Stefano is from Northern Italy he moved to Australia in the 1960’s at the age of 6. He told us great stories about his childhood in Australia….how his mother struggled to find ingredients that she always used in Italy….one example; she had to buy extra virgin olive oil from the chemist in 50ml bottles….so of course she bought 20 at a time! 

Thanks to all immigrants our food in Australia is so diverse today…but we still have a lot to learn…the Italians focus on seasonal produce, use, preserve and enjoy what is abundant and fresh and in season…they don’t waste anything and make their backyards and balconies productive.

Entree was a generous serving of oxtail and cabbage roll with chestnuts, grated horseradish and cream of cannellini.
Those tasty little chestnuts are hiding inside the cabbage roll.


For main we enjoyed roast rabbit with bread and sage stuffing, braised lentils, chestnuts and cauliflower gratinata. I have never had such tender rabbit. Stefano explained that it was farmed rabbit…he said ‘the white fluffy ones’….hmmm don’t think I needed to know that…but gosh it was good!
You can clearly see one of the chestnuts this time…happily perched on top of the rabbit.


Finally for dessert, warm rice pudding with candied chestnuts, anise anglaise and persimmon. 
This dessert was amazing….nothing like my childhood memories of rice pudding…which was white rice with milk, sugar and sultanas….hmmmm…need I say more!

The chestnuts are happily swimming in the anise anglasie. After dinner Cameron told us that the candied chestnuts were our De Coppi Marone chestnuts from last year…he had preserved them in a syrup and kept them in the fridge!

Chestnuts, Brussel Sprouts and Bacon

Roast veggies and chicken for dinner with a fabulous side dish of chestnuts, brussel sprouts and bacon…it’s just an amazing combination…the kids licked their plates clean…what more could you ask for?
Go on, try the recipe go to http://www.growlerscreekgrove.com.au/recipes.html

Autumn in Wandi

It really feels like autumn…the leaves have changed colour tones of green, amber, orange, yellow and red. 

Late autumn harvest is beautiful, foraging for chestnuts with yellow leaves falling alongside chestnuts and husks.

The wildlife is busy too… birds sifting through the fallen leaves looking for bugs, lyrebirds scratching for bugs and singing their mimicking tunes. Wallabies are our early morning harvesters…up early to fill up on chestnuts for breakfast. The parrots seem to enjoy chestnuts for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

The kookaburras arrive each night around 6pm to farewell the day with their nightly chorus before retiring to the bush.

Autumn…Growlers Creek Grove.


Roasting Chestnuts Over An Open Fire

Had a great time at the Wandi Nut Festival helping out on the Chestnut Australia stand. Huge thanks to my generous sister Lisa who drove up from Geelong for the weekend and helped out on the Chestnut Australia stand. 

The festival had a real buzz about it, great local live music, the roaming hula hoop girls who entertained the crowd and the kids, the intoxicating smell of fresh roasted chestnuts, local producers selling their bounty. 

The weather was perfect and the crowd lingered and really enjoyed the atmosphere of the festival. 

Big thanks to the festival organisers who volunteer their time to put on such a great day. 

Wandi has a population of about 250 people….the Wandi Nut Festival attracted a crowd of about 3000 people…possibly more!

Roasting chestnuts at the Wandi Nut Festival


Chatting about chestnut recipes, Wandi Nut Festival

Roasted Ruby Tuesday Chestnuts

Roasted some fresh Ruby Tuesday chestnuts tonight ….they were picked today so virtually straight from the tree. It’s best to leave the fresh nuts in the fridge for a couple of weeks to allow the sweetness to develop and the nut to shrink so they peel easily.

We roasted some standard Ruby Tuesday chestnuts in our oven, using the fan grill setting on 230 degrees for the first 10 minutes then reduced the heat for the last 20 minutes….the idea was to give them a blast of heat to make the nut shrink quickly.

Well it worked….they peeled really well…whole nuts virtually popping out of their shells. Pretty good for fresh nuts….that blast of intense heat really works.

The nuts were tasty and had a sweet nutty flavour which will develop over the next couple of weeks. Looking forward to trying them again in a couple of weeks.

Photo is of large 1 Ruby Tuesday…stunning nuts!