Sunday 30 December 2012


In the Philippines, new year's eve celebrations are steeped in traditions and beliefs. We welcome the new year with a bang, literally. Pyrotechnics of all sorts light the sky from dusk to dawn on new year's eve to ward off evil spirits and welcome the good ones. The noise from the fireworks is deafening almost and visibility is close to zero from all the fumes. 

The table has to be filled with food which should include 12 round ones to ensure prosperity for the next twelve months. Oranges, grapes, pomelo, watermelon, cantaloupe, star apples are sure to be included. Some not so round ones are also often included to reach the target. Chestnuts are also counted in even if it is not a fruit.

Chestnuts are one of the iconic food of the holiday season. They are toasted on the roadside and the aroma adds to the Christmas feel. They are tossed in a wok with tiny stones/gravel which helps regulate the heat and cook the chestnuts to perfection without causing them to explode.

I have had my fair share of chestnut explosions in my oven but since I like them, I still try to find a way to cook them to perfection. At last I have tasted success in Dan Roman's recipe for buttery roasted chestnuts. It not only stayed whole, the shells opened for easy peeling and it tasted better than ever because it was cooked with butter. Although Dan's recipe had rosemary, black pepper and nutmeg in it, I chose to cook mine with just butter and salt so I can just taste the pure goodness of chestnuts. This will be a holiday mainstay from now on.



1 kg. fresh unshelled chestnuts
1/2 c. melted butter
1 tsp. fine salt


Pre-heat the oven to 425° F/220° C.

Using a small, sharp knife carefully score a cross on the the rounded side of the chestnuts. Score deeply so that the shells open when cooked. Soak in bowl of boiling water for one minute to help them steam while roasting.

Drain the chestnuts and pat dry.

Add the butter and salt and mix.

Transfer to a rimmed baking tray that has been lined with foil that's big enough to wrap the chestnuts in a parcel. 

Spread the chestnuts on the foil. Gather the edges to enclose the chestnuts but leave a vent on top to let the steam escape.

Roast for 30-35 minutes until the peel begins to curl up where scored and the nuts are cooked through. Time depends on the size and age of the nuts. Peel one and taste.

When done, open the foil parcel and transfer contents, including the butter, to a serving dish. Toss well, spooning the butter in the cracks of the shell before serving hot.

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