On Chestnuts

Roasted-Chestnuts-(5239)Just the thought of these makes me want to cuddle on the couch with a mug of proper hot chocolate, with a dash of hazelnut syrup. (I was going to suggest liqueur too.) The Maltese have something else up their sleeve: they are crazy about Imbuljuta of course. I like to think of it as a sweet infusion (rather than soup) primarily made with shelled dried chestnuts, cocoa powder (*not drinking chocolate please*, which I saw aplenty on some other websites), caster sugar and tangerine or orange peel. It has been quite a while since I made this, and miss it’s warmth and chocolatey-ness! It’s really like a big hug and it reminds me of Christmas, when it is traditionally made.

I must try to make Imbuljuta this year, if naturally I can get my hands on the dried chestnuts, and experiment for a bit until I find the right amount of sweetness. Chestnuts for roasting are not the kind you need here but until I find the dried kind we will be roasting these at home, unfortunately not on an open fire! (see photo.) All the recipes I found are either too bitter or too sweet…or too chocolatey…or too thick (as in dense)…and I could go on and on. The one with the simplest and arguably most sensible ingredients and quantities I could find, (just because these are the basic ingredients and it is a good start), is from The Food and Cookery of Malta, a classic by Anne and Helen Caruana Galizia, Paz, 1999. You can add any other ingredient of your choice, but you cannot omit, anything from it. There is no cream in this (thank goodness!) even though they include it in their method as a “contemporary addition”. (My notes are included between brackets as you can see, but more as a guideline to myself than to my gentle readers.) They suggest using the following:

  • 400g-500g dried chestnuts (also known as Qastan tal-Imbuljuta)
  • I heaped tablespoon cocoa powder (I’d like to think of this as the standard 15ml measure)
  • 150g caster sugar
  • large piece of tangerine peel, cut into thin strips or chopped (I wouldn’t chop it or cut it. Whole would do nicely.)
  1. The chestnuts should be washed, any ones which seem off, discarded and the rest are placed in a bowl and left to soak overnight.
  2. When ready to be used, remove the residue or leftover skins. The chestnuts are now ready to be cooked. So place them in a heavy based pan, cover with cold water and let them cook until they are tender.
  3. Add the cocoa powder, caster sugar and the tangerine peel (orange peel will also do here) and continue cooking for around 30 minutes. It could need longer to thicken. (I have also seen recipes with corn starch in them, though I doubt their authenticity.) More sugar and/or cocoa can be added during the cooking process, or even after, depending on taste.

I will include any updates on the Galizia recipe, if there are any, hopefully very soon. Does anyone know where I can get some dried chestnuts in Surrey please?

Rob x

Additional note: My mum sent me another recipe for this which will be posted for Christmas 2013, which is richer and better than this one, if I may say so myself. It’s already tried and tested, so check it out before the 2013 festivities. I know you’ll love it! xx

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4 thoughts on “On Chestnuts”

  1. Just read your recipe on Maltese dried chestnuts with cocoa. Brought back nostalgia of my childhood in Malta, it was a favourite winter’s desert. I am Maltese living in England. Just for your information, in Surrey various health shops (like Holland & Barrett) sell dried chestnuts. I think I have also seen them in certain Greek shops also around Surrey. Good Luck.

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