Posts Tagged ‘water chestnuts’

Two chestnuts crumble

Friday, April 9th, 2010

When I was at school in the 1960s it was probably the cookery lessons I hated the most. We were being honed to become model housewives who would later slave over a hot stove all day so that a meal was ready and waiting when our husbands came home from the office.

Our teacher, a tall woman extended by a beehive hairdo on top and stiletto heels beneath, drummed into us the basics of what counted at the time as good cooking while constantly reminding us of the virtues of the ideal wife.

Most of my peers seemed quite content with this interpretation of our adult lives but I was convinced that my future lay elsewhere (as the title of first woman in space had recently been taken, I was hesitating between the careers of surgeon and folk singer).

One of the first dishes we learned to make was the traditional apple crumble – a mushy concoction in which any taste of fruit had been bludgeoned into submission by an overdose of sugar.

I’ve made my peace with cooking since then, and crumbles have crossed the Channel, popping up everywhere in versions sweet and savoury. I’m especially fond of this one because of the astonishing contrast between the textures of the chestnuts (the vacuum-packed kind) and tinned water chestnuts.

Crumble chât

Serves 4 to 6

5 g (¼ oz) dried ceps (or other dried mushrooms)
1 small onion
2 carrots
1 head of fennel
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs tamari
2 bay leaves
200 g (7 oz) chestnuts (vacuum packed)
200 g (7 oz) water chestnuts (drained)

120 g (4 oz) wholemeal flour
100 g (3½ oz) barley flakes
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground pepper
4 tbs olive oil

Cover the ceps with 200 ml (8 fl oz) of boiling water and leave to soak.

Roughly chop the onion, carrots and fennel and brown them quickly in the 2 tbs of oil. Add the tamari, bay leaves and 100 ml (4 fl oz) of water, cover and cook gently for about 15 minutes. The vegetables will absorb most of the water.

Meanwhile, mix the flour and barley flakes, and season with salt and pepper. Add the 4 tbs of oil and rub into the mixture.

Preheat the oven to 200°C (Gas 6).

Drain the mushrooms (you could chop them and add them to the vegetables but I prefer to save them for another dish) and strain the soaking liquid through a coffee filter. Add the liquid to the vegetables, along with the two types of chestnut. Mix well and transfer to an ovenproof dish.

Sprinkle over the crumble mix and bake for about 20 minutes, until the top is crisp and golden.

A green salad with a sharp, vinegary dressing goes well with this crumble.