It’s officially winter in the Tuscan countryside. The golden leaves have fallen and been burned, the grapes have been collected and gone to press, the olives harvested and the chestnut trees are full of chestnuts. And I might add my 100 feet of rosemary is lush and green from the rains of fall. Castagnaccio (chestnut cake) is a classical Tuscan treat made with chestnut flour (don’t for one second think I milled my own flour, I am not there yet), fresh rosemary sprigs, golden raisins soaked in Vin Santo (sweet dessert wine), pine nuts and or walnuts, olive oil, sea salt and a touch of sugar. It is usually served as a snack rather than a dessert. It is DELICIOUS. It is the perfect blend of salty sweet and tastes fantastic with a cup of tea or a glass of red wine and sitting by a fire doing what else other then roasting chestnuts on the fire. I bought Chestnut Flour
(available at gourmet shops in the USA) last summer and with the expiration near dove into my first try at it. Seeing it was my first time I turned to the trusted The River Café Classic Italian Cookbook. The River Cafe a well-known Italian eatery in London begun by the dynamic cooking duo Ruth Rogers and the Rose Gray. I always turn to my River Café cookbooks for simple, no fuss, amazing recipes. I adjusted the recipe just a tad and used raw agave nectar in lieu of the sugar and omitted the milk and instead used water. I’d actually be interested in trying the recipe with rice milk. Next time I may use a tiny bit less salt. It keeps in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week. Enjoy.
Makes 2 large pancakes.
500 ml milk or water
500 ml water
400 g chestnut flour I used 600
4 heaped teaspoons caster sugar (I used 2 tablespoons agave nectar)
1 teaspoon sea salt
100 ml olive oil plus for tins
100 g golden raisins soaked in vin santo
50 g pine nuts
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked.
Preheat oven to 220 (about 400 F)
Add water and chestnut flour and mix well to form a thin batter. Add agave, salt and olive oil and let sit for 30 minutes to expand a bit.
Drain raisins (and enjoy vin santo while you prep the rest of ingredients) Grease pan and pour in half the batter. Scatter over pine, nuts, raisins and rosemary leaves with a little sea salt and bake in over 30-40 minutes till golden and crisp at edges and still soft in the center. Surface will crack a little. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes and then remove. Make second pancake with rest of ingredients. Can make both at same time if you have two pans. Serve warm. Typically eaten as a snack and not as dessert. Nice with a glass of wine or cup of tea.