That old chestnut

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Happy Queen’s Birthday folks. Gawd, it’s absolutely freezing in Melbourne today. Time for some comfort food methinks.
First up is Roasted cauliflower and chestnuts with dukkah. With chestnut season nearly over, I figured it was time I attempted to roast some myself, and last week I did! Chestnuts are packed with goodness –  fibre, folate, Vitamin C and heaps of minerals including iron and calcium. I’ve never roasted them before and they were scrumptious!
I often prepare roasted cauliflower as a side dish and recently tossed in a handful of roasted chestnuts and a dash of dukkah as an experiment. Mmmmmmmm. You must try it. It went down excellently alongside beef rendang – quite a multicultural mish-mash, but somehow it worked!
In Australia the prime months for fresh chestnuts are mid March, April, May and June. Contrary to my punny post heading, do use the freshest chestnuts you can find, as stale chestnuts are impossible to peel and taste like cardboard – believe me, I made that mistake with the first batch I tried. Blech. They should be hard, heavy and shiny.
By roasting double the cauliflower and chestnuts, you can reserve half and transform them into a creamy Roasted cauliflower, potato and chestnut soup. It is divine (oops, sorry, I think Karen Martini owns that word). So Wintery and delicious, especially when served with crunchy sourdough croutons. Enjoy.

Roasted chestnuts

Roasted cauliflower and chestnuts with dukkah[Recipe 1] Roasted cauliflower and chestnuts with dukkah

Ingredients (serves 4, plus soup which serves 6–8):
1 kilo (2 lb) fresh whole chestnuts
2 large (about 2½kg/5 lb) cauliflower, cut into florets
⅓ cup olive oil
Sea salt
1 tablespoon dukkah, store-bought or home-made
Note: you’ll be reserving half the roasted cauliflower and chestnuts for the soup in Recipe 2.

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Carefully score a cross in the top of each chestnut with a very sharp knife. You may need to gently stab them first to get through the hard skin. Place chestnuts in a single layer on a tray lined with baking paper and roast for 20 minutes, until the skins begin to peel back and the nuts are light golden. When chestnuts are cool enough to handle, carefully remove the outer skins, and the dark brown thin inner skins.
Reserve half the peeled, toasted chestnuts, about 350g (¾ lb), for the Cauliflower, potato and chestnut soup.
Chop the remaining chestnuts roughly, and place in a large serving bowl.
Meanwhile, blanch the cauliflower florets in a large pan of boiling water, covered, for 2–3 minutes. Remove and drain. Dry thoroughly in a clean tea towel. Place into a large bowl and toss with the olive oil until well-coated.
On a large baking tray (or shallow baking dish) lined with baking paper, arrange the cauliflower florets in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25–30 minutes, turning once, until lovely and golden.
Reserve half the cauliflower florets, about 4½ cups (600g/1⅓ lb), for the Roasted cauliflower, potato and chestnut soup.
Toss remaining roasted cauliflower and chopped roasted chestnuts together with the dukkah, and serve.

  • As a rough guide, 1 kilo (2 lb) raw, unpeeled chestnuts will yield approximately 700g (1½ lb) shelled chestnuts.
  • 2½ kilos (5 lb) cauliflower when trimmed and chopped yields approximately 1.6 kilos (3½ lb) florets which will give you approximately 1.2 kilos (2½ lb) of cooked (blanched/roasted) cauliflower.
  • Dukkah is available in most large supermarkets, and from Middle Eastern grocers. It’s super easy to make your own though.
  • Reserved toasted chestnuts and roasted cauliflower can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • Kid tip: If your child won’t touch cauliflower, make some jacket potatoes instead. Throw a couple of whole, unpeeled potatoes into the oven at the same time as the cauliflower. Serve with sour cream or Greek yoghurt, and grated cheese. Most kids will happily eat the cauliflower chestnut soup though (see below), as it’s lovely and cheesey.

Cauliflower and chestnut soup

[Recipe 2] Roasted cauliflower, potato and chestnut soup

Ingredients (serves 6–8):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
350g (¾ lb) reserved roasted chestnuts
4½ cups (600g/1¼ lb) reserved roasted cauliflower florets
3 large potatoes (500g/1 lb), peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken stock, store-bought or home-made (or vegetable stock)
1 cup (100g) grated Gruyère cheese
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Sourdough croutons:
3 slices sourdough bread, crusts trimmed, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon dried thyme

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the leek and garlic over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until leeks are soft. Stir often.
Add reserved roasted chestnuts and roasted cauliflower.
Stir well, then add potatoes, bay leaf and stock.
Simmer soup for 15–20 minutes, until potato is tender.
Meanwhile, make croutons. Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF). Toss bread, olive oil and thyme in a medium bowl until bread cubes are evenly coated. Spread bread cubes on baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 10 minutes until crunchy and golden brown. Set aside.
Remove and discard bay leaf from soup. Season to taste. Using a blender or food processor, puree the soup completely smooth. Stir through grated gruyère.
Season to taste.
Ladle soup into deep bowls and serve, scattered with croutons.

  • The Roasted cauliflower, potato and chestnut soup will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Gruyère is a beautiful creamy, slightly nutty Swiss cheese. It’s a great melting cheese, perfect for quiches and soups. The aroma always reminds me of cheese fondue, one of my favourite childhood dinners. Gruyère is readily available in large supermarkets and delicatessens.
  • Make double the croutons and store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. The croutons can be roasted at the same time as the cauliflower or chestnuts, and stored until required.