Christmas Special | Caramelised Chestnuts with Honey & Thyme

Chestnuts existed in my life as a Mediterranean Greek ever since I can remember. They have been used everywhere and in every possible way, from around November to end January, with a peak in December and the festive period of Christmas. Chestnuts used in Christmas turkey stuffing, Chestnuts that we peeled very difficult and eat raw and the main delicacy of the Greeks, Chestnuts rubbed in aluminium foil, cooked on charcoaled rustic barbecues grills.

In my country we love chestnuts in every form and we can’t wait for winter to come to have plethora of this little brown nuts, covered in that dark brown, nearly semi glossy soft shell on the outside and that unpleasant sticky skin on the inside. And although it sounds hard to get rid of the shell and skin and easily enjoy them, I can assure you that there are quite a few ways to get rid of them and enjoy the actual nut of chestnuts.

It was a few days ago, that I had to visit for the first time the Lidl store in Eggomi, for a last minute party I had to throw for friends and family, that I got my first – for this year – little net bag full of chestnuts and it was back then when out of the blue came in my mind the magic recipe of caramelised chestnuts with honey and thyme. I must have picked the recipe idea somewhere in the internet, browsing around for inspiration, noted in the back of my head and out of the blue without thinking much decided to implement it, by improvising at the moment and then serve them between my cheese and especially my mozzarella and pomegranate, platter. But, it was during the night when my daughter felt hungry with a sudden urge for something sweet, when she started strolling in the kitchen, only to discover the baking tray with caramelised chestnuts and be happily surprised by the taste she came across. “It reminds me of those caramelised popcorns that we have in Disneyland” she busted out spontaneously and it was then when I have decided to make this recipe a post and an all-time favourite.

The recipe is so simple but the outcome is so stunningly delicious. Beyond being simple is also super quick and you only need 3 ingredients. Honey, thyme and salted butter along with the chestnuts is what makes this recipe super delicious – but you will need some extra time to unpeeled them. Nevertheless, with a cross cut at the shell and a few minutes in the oven or boiled you will get rid of the shell and irritating skin in no time!

First you need to bring some drinking water to the boil and add the chestnuts, after you cut the shell in a cross on their flat side. Boil them for ten minutes and try to remove the shell and skin. If is still too hard to do so,  place them in a baking tray and bake them a few minutes more. This should make it super easy to remove both shell and skin. In the meantime, preheat oven at 180c/gas mark 4 for 20 minutes. In a baking tray or an iron cast shallow casserole, put 100g for 100g of chestnuts and place them in the oven to melt and slightly caramelised the butter. This should not be more than 6-7 minutes. Remove the pan and turn the oven, to top grill function as well. Place the clean chestnuts in the pan, drizzle with plenty of honey and sprinkle with thyme. Place them in the oven until caramelised – but be careful you don’t burn them!!

Serve them on their own with vanilla ice cream, on their own as a snack or with cheese platters. As we discovered in the small gathering I had in my house Caramelised chestnuts with honey and thyme work miracles with mozzarella and pomegranate salad and balsamic glaze