Autumn is here and it’s time to enjoy seasonal produce such as chestnuts.
Torta Monte Bianco (Mont Blanc) has French origins but is widely enjoyed in northern Italy, particularly Piedmont and Lombardy.
Ingredients (serves 6)
*750g fresh chestnuts
*1 dessert spoon of unsweetened cocoa
*1 vanilla pod
*300ml whipping cream
*Icing sugar (to taste for sweetening the cream)
*Marron glacè and dark chocolate shavings for decoration.
Take the chestnuts and make an incision right through the outer shell of at least one centimetre. Boil them for 20 minutes and leave them to cool in their cooking water. Once they’ve cooled down, remove the outer shell and mash lightly with a fork.
Put the mashed chestnuts back in a pan with milk, the vanilla pod (first cut it in half lengthways, scrape out the vanilla seeds with the back of a sharp knife and add this to the milk along with the outer part of the pod itself) and sugar.
Cook for another 20 minutes, stirring. The chestnuts will absorb all the milk leaving a thick, creamy mixture. Remove the vanilla pod. Mix in cocoa and leave the mixture on a very low flame for another couple of minutes to dry it a bit more. Once the mixture has cooled, leave it in the fridge for one hour.
Take the cold chestnut mixture out of the fridge and pass it through a potato press (so that it resembles spaghetti) onto a serving plate. Build up the chestnut mixture on the plate so that it forms a ‘mountain’.
Whip the cream, sweetening it with icing sugar.
Cover your ‘chestnut mountain’ with whipped cream and decorate with marrons glacè and dark chocolate shavings.
Easy Marrons Glacè
Boil 200gr chestnuts (after having made an incision on the outer shell) for 20 minutes. Leave them to cool in cooking water and remove the outer shell.
Put 250ml water and 250gr sugar in a pan, bring to the boil and leave on the heat for 15-20 minutes to obtain a fairly dense syrup (test the density by stirring the syrup with a wooden spoon, lift the spoon out of the mixture, when the syrup slowly forms a drop before falling off the spoon it’s ready).
Fold chestnuts into the syrup and leave on the heat for another 5 minutes taking care that the syrup doesn’t caramelize. Lift out the chestnuts, placing them onto ovenproof paper and leave to cool.
If, like many Italians, you like to make an outing of foraging for seasonal produce, follow my Mother-in-law’s advice before using the chestnuts you’ve collected: When you get home, cover the chestnuts with water and leave them to soak for a day. The ones that float to the surface of the water are no good and should be thrown away (you’d find an unpleasant surprise inside on opening these ones).
The ones that stayed at the bottom are good and should be removed from the water and left to dry before using.