The wild food foraging I usually enjoy at this time of the year has been poor to say the least. Last autumn, I found a lovely little patch of woodland that had plenty of my favourite autumn foods: sloes, damsons, elderberries, brambles and chestnuts, plenty to go around and to leave a few for the birds and squirrels. This year, I fear the poor summer that we have had has given the berries a torrid time. Either that or my secret patch has been rumbled.
Chestnuts are one of the best free nuts, with their versatile sweet inner just bursting with flavour and awaiting a multitude of dishes. Roasting a few and eating warm with a little salt and pepper is good enough, but a simple pot roast using a game bird such as pheasant, grouse or partridge with a few roasted chestnuts thrown in is simply amazing. Boil chestnuts, whiz in a blender and you have a nutty purée that is perfect for cakes and scones or even an ice cream.
I made bread with a handful of them over the weekend, and the warmth and smell that the bread gave off made you feel happy that the winter is almost upon us. Some good honey sweetened the bread without overpowering it. Perfect bread for a perfect season of food I thought, even if my free food patch is no more.
Chestnut and Honey Bread
500g strong bread flour
200g chestnuts, cooked and peeled
1 tsp salt
1 heaped tsp ready active yeast
300ml warm water
1 – Tip the flour into a large bowl. Crumble in the chestnuts and mix together with the salt and yeast.
2 – Mix the honey and water together. Make a well in the flour and begin to gradually pour the water and honey on, mixing all of the time with your other hand.
3 – When the mixture comes together, tip out onto a floured surface and begin to knead by pulling the furthest edge towards you with your fingers then pushing with the palm of your hand.
4 – Repeat this until the dough becomes smooth and an impression of your hand when pushed in springs straight back out. Place back into the bowl, sprinkle on some flour and place in a warm place for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
5 – Preheat the oven to 220C GM8.
6 – Gently knead the dough until you have pushed the air out then place onto a floured backing tray. Cover and leave for another hour until it has doubled in size.
7 – Gently place onto the middle shelf of your oven and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 200C GM6 and cook for a further 20-30 minutes or until it makes a ‘hollow’ sound when tapped. Leave cool on a wire tray.