Butternut Squash Timbales with Chestnut Apple Sauce and Foraging for Food

As I’m racing down the bike path last week, lost in thought, as usual; aiming for the big leaves to get a nice noisy crunch, as usual; I found myself aiming for the chestnuts to get a nice ‘splat’.

WTF?  That’s FOOD!

I slammed on my brakes (got a lovely screech) and hopped off my bike.  Yup, they were a decent size.

Once mon mari realized that I wasn’t injured he gave a Gallic shrug (he’s getting quite good at that) and continued on, leaving me to my find.

We have both a horse chestnut (left) and a sweet chestnut tree in our garden.  The horse chestnut, aka ‘conker’ is not edible, and the sweet chestnut is too young to bear worthy chestnuts.

The chestnuts on the bike trail were perfect!  I proceeded to gather what I could without gloves (they have nasty prickers) and started to fill my bike pack.  A few more stops under big trees and by the time I found mon mari, resting under a tree having a snack, my pack was full.  We were most pleased!


I spent the ride back, once again lost in


the murky abyss of my brain, trying to figure out what to do with them all, besides just roasting and eating.

That probably explains how we got separated and why I spent a half an hour wandering around downtown Aizeny looking for the bike trail that I had somehow lost…but that’s another story.

By the time I got back to the car I had the recipe laid out.  It just needed a decent execution and it would be perfect for the big
Two Year Anniversary of Weekend Herb Blogging Celebration
being hosted by our beloved  founder, Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen.

WhbtwoyearbannerNow the question: do all those lovely chestnuts I gathered have any nutritional value or are they just good for sappy Christmas songs?

Chestnuts have been eaten all over Europe and Asia since prehistoric times.  Flour made from chestnuts played an important role in ancient cuisine and is seeing a bit of a comeback.  Chestnuts are similar to the beechnut eaten by Native Americans.  They are very low in fat, unlike most other nuts, and are an excellent source of vitamins B6 and C; and a good source of potassium and folate.  After roasting or boiling, both the outer shell and inner skin must be removed before eating.  The flesh is sweet, slightly dry and crumbly.

The absolutely, most perfect way to eat chestnuts is in Salzburg, just before Christmas, out of a paper cone piping hot from the chestnut vendor, while strolling through old town, listening to Mozart and gazing into the colorfully decorated shop windows.  Sigh…..

Okay, back to reality!  This was pretty good, too!  And Kalyn, I did try for unusual combinations…that’s what comes of a 4 hour bike ride!

Butternut Squash Timbales with Apple Chestnut SauceSquashtimbale_2

1 cup butternut squash
pinch of saffron
pinch of nutmeg

pinch salt
2 tbs crème fraiche
1 egg
6 small sage leaves
Caramelized Shallots
Apple Chestnut Sauce

Cut butternut squash into small cubes (1/4″ (.5cm).   Put into a steamer basket over boiling water and steam for 10 – 12 minutes, or until tender.  Remove and put into a bowl.  Crush a few saffron threads and add to squash along with the pinches of salt and nutmeg.  Mash the squash with a fork and mix spices in well.  Butter 2 ramekins and line with buttered parchment or waxed paper.  Make 2 more circles and butter one side for the top.  Put the egg in a medium bowl and whisk lightly.  Add crème fraiche and whisk well.  Add the squash and stir well to combine.  Put 3 sage leaves upside down in each ramekin.  Top with the caramelized shallots, evenly divided.  Spoon the squash on top, dividing evenly.  Put the paper circle, buttered side down, loosely on top.  Put into a baking pan (I use a bread pan) with deep sides.  Pour hot water into the pan coming half way up the sides of the ramekins.  Bake in 400F (200C) oven for 30 minutes, until set – top will be firm.  Remove from oven and carefully remove ramekins from hot water.  Remove paper.  Run a knife around edges of timbales and invert onto small plates.  Remove paper carefully.  You should have a lovely top of 3 sage leaves nestled into the shallots.  Spoon Apple Chestnut Sauce on the side and serve.

Caramelized Shallots

2 medium shallots
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp water
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sage leaves
1/4 tsp rosemary

Heat 2 tsp olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat and add shallots.  Sauté 10 minutes, until starting to brown.  Add water (it helps speed things up and prevent burning) and stir well and let continue to cook for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until nicely browned.  Add brown sugar, vinegar, herbs, and cook, stirring for 2 more minutes.

Apple Chestnut Sauce

1/2  large apple
5 roasted chestnuts
3 tbs apple juice
1/4 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp sage

Lay the chestnuts flat on their sides and cut a cross in one side with a sharp knife. Put in a small pan or baking sheet and roast, 400F (200C) for 20 minutes.  Remove and peel, carefully, they’re hot!  Chop finely.  Peel apple and chop finely.  Put apple in a small saucepan with 1 tbs apple juice.  Heat over medium-low until apple is soft.  Add chopped chestnuts and herbs and heat through.  Add enough remaining apple juice as it will absorb.  I used it all.

Note: This was part of a larger menu that used up the odd bits (other half of the apple, rest of apple juice, etc.

Note 2: The recipe might look a bit intimidating but it really is easy – just a bit on the fussy side

Be sure to visit Kalyn’s Kitchen for the big bash round-up next week!  And remember, always brake for food!

35 thoughts on “Butternut Squash Timbales with Chestnut Apple Sauce and Foraging for Food”

  1. I like chestnuts. Last year I hosted the German blogging event with the chestnuts. I used them a lot! Your sauce sounds great.

  2. Your creativity knows no bounds! Wow, we have tons of ‘conkers’ but I am not sure I could identify the sweet ones, very neat.

  3. haha..loved your post “WTF?”
    The English bloke tells me of a game he used to play as a child with chestnuts. Conkers?
    I love chestnut flour. So many classic baked goodies are made from it. When you go to NYC near christmas, the street vendors are selling hot roasted chestnuts and the col winter air is filled with this beautiful aroma.

  4. Peter, I hope it works for you – it really is easy!
    Ulrike, I have enjoyed many chestnuts in Germany – and in Spain. Rarely find the street vendors in France! Now If only some one could tell me an easy way to peel them…
    Katerina, you can tell by the outer husk – If you look closely at the first photo you can see the difference. The leaves are different, too, but it’s a little late in the year for that.
    Tigerfish, I love’em, too! Great minds, with our posts…
    Maryann, Yup, conkers is played with horse chestnut – I haven’t a clue how! I haven’t seen chestnut flour – just heard of it. Hot-roasted chestnuts….I follow the aroma until I find the vendor!

  5. Katie, all I can say is WOW! You are not going to believe this but I have never had a chestnut! OK, OK, what rock have I been living under! They sound wonderful and I see them at the store in a jar, but the fresh ones, of course, sound much better. Maybe I can find some fresh ones near the holidays! What a fabulous entry for the weekend herb blogging! I am going to tune in to see what’s cookin’!

  6. Katie, this is a spectacular recipe! I never buy chestnuts until Christmas, but after seeing this dish with nutmeg and saffron, I’m buying them earlier this year. Really, why wait to enjoy their deliciousness, especially with butternut squash, one of my all-time favorites? Thanks!

  7. Lovely recipe! I never cook with chestnuts — in fact, the only time I eat them is in New York City, when I buy them from a street vendor in wintertime. Now I must rethink — time to roast some at home.

  8. Holy cow! Besides the fact that I totally pictured the screeching bike, but the picture and recipe? Yummo!! Man, I can’t wait for it to get cooler here!

  9. Katie,
    I can tell you what we used to do with chestnuts when we were kids. The only thing is I don’t know how useful it will be to you. We punched a hole through the center of the chestnut and put a string through it,
    tied it of and had a nasty weapon. I don’t recall anyone getting hurt. Perhaps this was an early example of mutual destruction capabilities holding things in check.

  10. Sounds really, really delicious. I love butternut squash and sage, but I’m not sure I’ve tasted chestnuts. Of course there are the Christmas songs, so I’m sure they must be delicious. Very creative, and thanks for helping us celebrate two years!

  11. This sounds really good! I have never tried cooking with chestnuts. I saw some at the farmers market last weekend. I think I might have to pick some up this coming weekend to try therm.

  12. Oh, Katie. You remind me of how foolish I was back then. Our dear friend Ralph and Sue one day came down to visit us with a bag of chestnuts, still in their shells. That was the very first time I saw those nuts. They didn’t know what to do with them as well, and I didn’t try to find out on the net or somewhere elses. Then, when I made a trip with my fellow cake decorators from the club we went to Hamilton. There was hectares and hectares of chestnut plantations. I went like, what? Then Rita, one of the ladies who came along explained to me what to do with them. Oh I was so embarrassed because I threw the nuts into the buckets, but not without reasons: Well, I probably kept them too long, so when I tried to crack them, I found unpleasant smell and rotten nuts in there.
    I should’ve known you first time, shouldn’t I?

  13. Mmmm I am just starting to love chestnuts…at first I didn’t like the texture. Just this morning I had chestnut bread toasted for breakfast.

  14. Exactly, WTF! I am glad you came to your senses and picked the chestnuts up! Apples and chestnuts sounds heavenly! Do you know how expensive they are in TN? VERY! There is no chestnut tradition down here, so finding one fresh (forget about it) and the jarred ones, are jarred.

  15. Oh my heart be still.
    Love the sage in this and the sauce is causing my mind to reel! I see some really fun possibilities with this. Beautiful recipe and what a great bike ride!

  16. That looks beautiful! I was looking for something completely different for my butternuts and here it is! I had to laugh, I lay in bed dreaming up recipes much the same way, and think them up while I am out running off the calories!

  17. Katie what an impressive write up and great photos! I simply adore seeing France and thinking of Europe through your fun-loving eyes! Glad you found your way back to the path. 😀
    And thanks for the education about the chestnuts. Yum!

  18. Katie, this looks fabulous! I made some veggie timbales and blogged about it some time ago, and since being introduced to this wonderful side dish, I love trying out diff versions!
    PS: I’d love to have you participate in the AFAM-Peach event that I’m hosting for October!:)

  19. Well, that settles it–Katie lives in a wonderful kingdom where she gathers chestnuts, along with her other delightful crops. It really is so much fun reading about your life, even if I do get flashes of jealousy now and then.

  20. Deb, they’re best from a street vendor. I’ve never tried the ones in the jar… It’s pretty much a cold weather thing…
    Susan, I was the same – but I FOUND these, makes all he difference!
    Lydia, exactly how I was in the U.S. – waited to travel some place that would have them…then my natural impatience kicked in and I started buying them..
    Mike, you were supposed to use the horse chestnuts, you know…not the edible ones!Early detante, eh?
    Kalyn, the squash and sage go so well together. Utah may be too warm for chestnuts – you’ll have to travel somewhere colder before Christmas.
    Kevin, give’em a try. I love them, mon mari tolerates them, son won’t touch them…but he won’t eat potatoes, either….
    Arfi, what a shame! They don’t keep very long, in the fridge or root cellar, a few weeks is about it before they start getting moldy.
    Thanks, Anh!
    Meredith, the texture it unexpected when you think of a nut. It’s in a lot of ‘Christmas’ breads – pannetone, for one.
    Ulrike, I keep hoping!
    Lannae, too far south, I suppose…too bad. They really did well with the apples.
    Tanna, the bike rides are fun – gives my mind time to wander all over the place, and way better than weeding!
    Expat Chef, that’s the only reason I exercise – so I can eat more!
    BZ, thanks, I was getting a bit worried, I was about 20km from the car and I was getting really tired of going around the same round-a-bout…but I had my chestnuts!
    Mansi, I will check it out tomorrow! I make carrot, spinach and courgette timbales so far..
    Sher, more gatherers are always welcom!

  21. That looks really awesome and just…intriguing. A lot of flavors that make perfect sense but would never have crossed my mind…I’ll have to give this one a shot 🙂

  22. Oh,Katie, you are too funny. I can just see you eyeballing those chestnuts out of the corner of your eye as you were passing by….Prickly things, you found there….at least I know now what sort of nut they are…I have seen them on the streets in Italy with those spikie things displayed….who would eat those! Just kidding aside, you dish looks wonderful and you have hit upon one of my favorite veggies…..this is something I would slam on the brakes for!

  23. Katie,
    I love the imprint of sage leaves, definitely a crowd-pleaser! I’m still waiting for squash (esp butternut) showing up, although I don’t make a special trip going to any special market.
    … btw, I haven’t been La Boqueria, only passed by, and one time when we looked at an apartment around the area. The streets are very charming.
    Glad you told us about ‘conker’, I almost brought them home and roasted them!

  24. Had to save this post to my del.ici.ous file even before leaving a comment. Jeez Katie, this looks so incredibly delicious, I can’t wait to make it. And the apple chestnut sauce – just kill me now!
    I love the idea of you racing down a bike path crunching chestnut leaves. They were all over the Dordogne region were we spent such a lovely autumn several years ago. Ah the memories…

  25. Mike, that’s what comes of a wandering mind…
    Jann, Drive over Lemons, Brake for Chestnuts…my new motto!
    Truffle, but you’re getting asparagus….
    Gattina, you have to go to La Boqueria – esp. this time of year when they are gearing up for the Christmas baking…it’s so wonderful! I even used to do a bit of shopping there and just staring…
    Thanks, Ilva, I was trying for something special hahaha!
    Christine, the kid just comes out when I’m on my bike…good thing mon mari makes me wear my helmut…

  26. I love chestnuts! In Italy there were already plenty of people selling roasted chestnuts on the side of the road. The smell is so heart-warming. This dish sounds out-of-this-world delicious.

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