03 November 2009

Recipe For Sweet Chestnuts Foraged At Fountains Abbey

Recipe For Sweet Chestnuts Foraged At Fountains Abbey

We (that's me and my 2 kids) have been enjoying a few walks this half term break - in the deer park at Studley Royal which is at the lower end of Fountains Abbey and at Brimham Rocks

Both are National Trust places and well worth the visit; in fact I reckon that Fountains Abbey must be one of the most beautiful places I've visited anywhere in the world and it's packed full of history. 

You've got the beauty of a tamed natural landscape at the deer park with a small river Skell and seven picturesque little bridges (just where you could imagine trolls lurking beneath) while Fountains Abbey melds the formal landscape of early 18th century with the more natural, romantic-style landscaping around the ruined great Benedictine monastery, dating to the later half of the 18th century.  This site bridges the gap in English gardening from the formalised garden through to the more natural gardens of Capability Brown.

The leaves on the trees - chestnuts, oaks, beeches, limes - have turned to their autumnal hues - reds, yellowy-green, gold - and as they gently fall to the floor, they appear to gild the lush green grass.  

Fallow deer at Studley Roger

Fallow deer and red deer graze in decent sized herds throughout the deer park; we followed a small group of about 12 red deer along the higher valley banks of the Skell.  The stag had a magnificent set of antlers and would throw back his head every so often and utter their characteristic guttural bark, proclaiming his dominion over his small herd.

Along the way, we foraged amongst the leaves for sweet chestnuts.  These have a sea-urchin-like, very prickly outside, enclosing 2 or 3 little dark brown soft chestnuts.  The inside of the shells is amazingly soft to touch, just like silk.

Sweet chestnuts

We brought our small collection of sweet chestnuts home and have roasted them quickly in the oven.  This is a really simple process, stirring up feelings of the hunter gatherer deep inside my bones:

1.  Simply make small nicks/incisions in the sweet chestnuts

2.  Place on a baking tray in an oven pre-heated to 180oC

3.  Roast for about 20 minutes or until the shell is hardened and starts splitting

4.  Leave to cool for a few minutes, peel and enjoy