The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

December 21, 2012

COOKING WITH SIMON: Going nuts for chestnuts

Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — We are all mad about nuts this time of year with barrels of nuts in the grocery store, lots of area pecans and chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Well maybe not the last one, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy eating chestnuts or using them in recipes.

The thought of chestnuts brings back memories from the time I worked in London. I would walk down North Audley Street just around the corner from the American Embassy. Little did I know I would one day live in the United States. During the Christmas season the street vendors would sell hot roasted chestnuts on the street corner. They were placed in a paper bag and were a great way to keep your hands warm on a cold London night.

Warming your hands was about all they were good for since roasting really is not the best way to enjoy eating a chestnut. They are difficult to peel and can be a bit of work.

This week I had the opportunity to be on KYTX-CBS19 in Tyler and showed Tyler Morning Telegraph Food Editor Christine Gardner a better way to peel a chestnut. I read in an old Mrs. Beeton’s cookbook that was published in the mid-1800s another way to cookchestnuts.  

Mrs. Beeton was from England and was the first woman to write a cookbook. She took the country by storm in 1861 with Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management. It was a guide to proper Victorian housekeeping that organized the rules of domestic life in an easy to follow guide. Her recipes, advice on household management and how to buy equipment for the kitchen is just as valuable to everyone today as it was to ladies of her time.

I followed her advice on peeling chestnuts and it works much better than roasting. Simply bring a pot of water to a boil.

Drop the chestnuts into the water a few at a time. Let simmer for three to four minutes. Remove from the water and while still hot, but cool enough to handle, carefully cut a vertical slit through the pointed end of the chestnut. Then begin peeling back the shell.

If it does not peel easily put it back in the water for another minute. Rub off the outer skin of the nut and then it can be used in soups with Stilton cheese, pies, cakes, cookies or as Mrs.  Beeton advises a stuffing for Christmas turkey.

To see the video from CBS19 about how to peel chestnuts go to It will be posted on the front page of the website.

Mrs. Beeton’s Chestnut Stuffing

2 tablespoons butter

1 onion, chopped

2 sticks celery, chopped

2 sage leaves

1 pound of chestnuts, cooked and peeled

4 cups breadcrumbs

2 eggs

Salt and pepper to taste

Zest from half a lemon

Place butter in frying pan and melt. Add chopped celery and onions. Add sage leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Add chopped chestnuts and fry until tender. Remove from heat and add breadcrumbs. When cool add beaten eggs, salt, pepper and lemon zest. Gently stir until combined. Use inside turkey.

Note: If baking the stuffing separately add one to two cups broth to desired wetness and place in a baking dish. Bake at 375 for 30 to 45 minutes.


Simon Webster is the Executive Chef of Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro a multi-faceted dining destination just outside Palestine. For more information go to or call 903-729-9500.