Monday, 31 October 2011

Homemade Chestnut Pasta

 I’m very excited about this blog. It will be my first ever two-part blog; the first instalment today and concluding chapter tomorrow. It’s just that I have so much to tell you and two great recipes. I’ll be up to the wee hours if I try to write it all out for you tonight. Forgive my apparent lack of commitment, all will come clear soon.

Firstly I really wanted to show you pictures of the boat at this time of year and how she looks a bit like the trees here in France that have lost their leaves for the winter.


Even her usually glossy cap-rail has been covered with plastic wrap to keep the varnish preserved from the weather which is due any minute now. The interior of the boat is quiet and covered in dust covers and most of the crew have left for the winter. There are 5 of us left out of 12 crew. Lunch takes me a measly 45 minutes to cook and although I will adjust eventually, so far I keep trying to over-feed the remaining crew. Well, it is winter and they need fattening up for the cold months ahead surely.

Where did all my blocks go?

Now, autumn being a season of produce and harvest and because I missed out on the whole jam making adventures because I had to go sailing (poor me), I was desperately trying to come up with something interesting I could make with the glut of sweet chestnuts we have here in the cote D’azur. The chestnut festival’s final day was yesterday and I hit upon my great idea whilst rummaging around in the freezer for a suitable Sunday dinner.

The last hour of the final chestnut festival in La Garde Freinet

Rabbit. It is a shame that rabbit is not as popular in the UK as it is in France and I really don’t know why. For sure the wild rabbit is a very gamey meal and probably best suited to the game lover but a farmed rabbit is very mild and basically a lot like chicken. 

I had one in the freezer and as rabbit works very well with pasta I came up with my idea; chestnut pasta!  A low gluten, tasty roast chestnut pasta I could make myself and serve with the rabbit. Now can you see why I am so excited? 

Today I think I will start with the chestnut pasta recipe and follow with the rabbit sauce tomorrow. How will you sleep?!

So a quickie on the health benefits of chestnuts. They have fewer calories than any other nut and are the only nut to contain vitamin C. They have a high starch content and because they are so ‘dry’ can be used as a flour substitute, a fantastic non-gluten alternative. And it made the tastiest pasta ever.

Okay, I’ll stop blathering on and crack on with the recipe.

I don’t have a food blender but I do have a pasta machine. If you don’t have either this is still possible to make so do try it!

For chestnut pasta for 4 people you will need;

170g chestnut flour or 30 roast chestnuts, the skins removed
90g strong white flour
2 large eggs
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fine sea salt

  • I went to the chestnut fare and bought about 30 roasted chestnuts which I shelled and put into my mini food processor to make into flour. It worked! Brilliantly!  If you don’t have roast chestnuts then you can get chestnut flour from most health stores. It’s sort of nice to do it yourself though and I think the chestnuts had that nice smokiness from the good roasting they’d had at the festival.

  • Sift both of the flours into a large cold glass bowl or into a food blender. Make a well in the centre and add the eggs, salt and olive oil. Using a fork, start to whisk the eggs and slowly begin to draw in the flour from the edges of the well, incorporating more flour until you have a rough dough. It will get to the point when it’s easier just to get your hands in and bring it all together. If using a blender, blend till the dough forms.

  • Now is the fun, stress relieving bit. Knead the dough for about 8-10 minutes on a cold flat surface, sprinkling on more plain flour if you need to. It should be a silky, springy dough and not too dry or sticky. When the dough is fully kneaded, wrap in cling-film and rest in the fridge. This is a good time to start the rabbit dish, the recipe for which I will share with you in the next exciting addition of, ‘An Autumn Boat’!!!

  • Anyway. Once the pasta is fully rested (bless) sift some plain flour over a cold, flat work surface and begin to roll out half of the pasta with a floured rolling pin till it is good and thin enough to cut into tagliatelle or papperdelle or whatever shape you please! If, like me you have a pasta machine then proceed as you would normally and then use the tagliatelle function on the machine to finish. I usually rest the pasta again covered in flour and some clingfilm on a tray in the fridge.

  • When you are ready to cook the pasta, put a large pan of salted water onto boil. The pasta will take just minutes! Literally just 3-4 of them. Drain in a colander and drizzle with some good olive oil.

  • Serve with the rabbit sauce coming tomorrow in the next exciting addition of blah blah blah…

As you can see the pasta had a lovely ‘marron’ colour and wasn’t at all crumbly or difficult to work with and tasted delicious

Thanks for reading such a long and maybe slightly over-excited blog. I think perhaps tomorrows will be slightly calmer. But no promises. If you need any help with any of this then do feel free to contact me on the gmail address at the top of the page.

Á Demain!