Apart from the street vendors you don't really see chestnuts being used in cooking - which quite frankly is a tragedy because they are wonderfully tasty, earthy little nuggets and they absorb flavours so well!
So...here is my Chestnut, Pancetta and Pea Risotto. Like all risottos this is a labour of love, so be prepared to be stove over the stove for a good half an hour...but I promise it will be worth it!
Chestnut, Pancetta and Pea Risotto
2 and a half pints of Chicken Stock
About 20 Chestnuts, peeled and halved (prick and blanch them to make peeling easier!)
2 knobs of butter
1 big onion
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
2 celery stick, finely chopped
2 tbsp Fresh Thyme
400g Risotto rice
half pint of white wine (preferably dry)
200g Frozen Peas
2 tbsp Freshly Grated Parmesan
Heat the stock in a big pan. Pop the chestnuts in a little pan of boiling water and cook for 10 mins, then drain and pat dry. In a separate pan fry the pancetta and cooked chestnuts in a little olive oil for about 5 mins, then add the onions, garlic, celery and thyme and turn the heat to low for about 10 minutes. Add the rice and turn the heat to medium, after about 2 mins add the white wine and stir. Once all the wine has been sucked up by the rice start to add the hot chicken stock one ladle at a time. Add the peas after about 10 mins. Repeat this for about 15 mins until all the stock has been used and soaked up by the rice. Make sure you keep trying the rice to see if it is cooked, if you over cook it it will taste yukky! Once cooked remove from the heat and add the butter and Parmesan. Serve with a sprig of thyme.