Castagnaccio - chestnut cake

I recently taught a couple of classes on managing blood glucose levels.  One of the recipes we cooked together was a Tuscan dish called Castagnaccio. Its a sweet/savory cake made with chestnut flour and no added sugar.


This winter I've actually had a bit of a chestnut obsession, to be honest.  I just love chestnuts and keep finding new ways to use them.  I think I'm just going to have to find space to plant a chestnut tree.


Edible  sweet chestnuts - not to be confused with horse chestnuts, nor water chestnuts, are in the beech tree family.  They are one of the lowest calorie nuts, containing no cholesterol, very little fat (mostly unsaturated) and gluten free.  They have similar carbohydrate content as rice and wheat and are the only nuts to contain vitamin C.  We always think of nuts as being high in fat - but not the chestnut.



I throw them on my salads, add  them to lots of other dishes and now am using chestnut flour in baked goods.  You can also buy them dried and reconstitute them, and pureed, and as "chips" which you can use to make a chestnut type hummus.  See - they are so much more than just a subject of Christmas songs! Get out there and buy a jar of roasted chestnuts - or roast your own, before they are all gone!



Castagnaccio is a little different from what you imagine a cake to be. It is solid with a more unusual texture - and combines the flavors of sweetness from sultanas (golden raisins), with pine nuts and then fresh rosemary.  I love the combination - but I have to say, I haven't tasted anything else quite like it.  I've tried a couple of variations using walnuts instead of the pine nuts and regular raisins or cranberries instead of the sultanas.  And with or without the orange zest. I like them all and its a great portable food that I take with me in the car on my trips to the city.



I've never had Castagnaccio from Tuscany. Have you?  I'd love to know how this recipe compares.....

Anyhow - if you are feeling like something a little different, give it a go:


Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups chestnut flour (I bought mine online)
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 sultanas/golden raisins
1/4 pine nuts
1 large sprig of rosemary
Grated zest of 1 orange (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Soak the sultanas in the 1 1/2 cups warm water for approx 5 minutes.  Drain - reserving both the sultanas and the water.
  3. Meanwhile, remove the rosemary leaves from the sprig.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the chestnut flour and drained warm water until smooth.
  5. Place the olive oil in a pie dish and place int he oven to just a couple of minutes to warm.
  6. Pour the batter into the pie dish and swirl with a whisk to carefully mix in the oil into the dough.  
  7. Sprinkle on the nuts, orange zest and soaked sultanas.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until the whole surface is dry and a little cracked.
  9. Serve hot, warm or cold.
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All-day Long Oatmeal Bites

I have been making these oatmeal bites so frequently over the last couple of weeks...but they are always eaten before I take their photograph, so I haven't blogged about them before today!



Anyhow - they are my current favorite bite. You can eat them any time of the day  - from breakfast through to a snack to a dessert after dinner. I love them. They were inspired by Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe. They are sooooo tasty.  I made them for our choir retreat and got lots of comments, and everytime someone tastes them, they want the recipe. They are perfect for a breakfast on the go - or even a dinner on the go, as I've taken a couple to the city with me in the evening, to keep me going!


Anyhow, here is the recipe:

Scant 1 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1/2 cup cashew nut butter (I use Artisana brand)
1 cup gluten free rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup raisins or other dried fruit


Preheat the oven to 350F

1. Mash the applesauce with the cashew butter in a bowl until combined.
2. Add all the other ingredients and stir well.
3. Use a small cookie scoop to shape approx 15 cookies on a lined baking sheet.
4. Bake for 14 minutes, until the base is brown.



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Truly scrumptious - Clove and raisin raw fudge

Gosh - I've had so many truly scrumptious delights this week...but one taste that will stay with me was a clove and raisin raw fudge that I made.


When I started out, I was not making fudge at all, so it was one of the recipes where a failure led to an even bigger success.

I was going to make some raw clove chocolate and added some of my new clove liqueur.  However the chocolate didn't quite set properly - I added 2 tablespoons of the liqueur and probably should have stopped at 1!!!

So I decided to gently re-melt the chocolate - again not going above 110F so it remains "raw" and full of nutrients and anti-oxidants....and I added a little bit of coconut cream and also a few of our own homegrown and dried raisins, and then let it set as fudge!


Yum!  The clove is a great strong flavor but not too overpowering and the raisins gave a nice change in texture.  It is rich.  One square is extremely satisfying.

I made it as part of a goodie bag for my friends, but luckily saved some for a bag for my hubby, so I got some of that!!


What was truly scrumptious in your holiday week?
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Starry, starry delights....

Santa has been busy preparing a few healthy edible gifts for the holiday season.


But I hope you'll be nice Santa, and won't make us wait to see what is inside.  Go on Santa, open up the tin.....

Look at his delight!  Inside are starry, starry delights!


They are healthy squares, decorated with edible gold stars ******


Here's the simple recipe - Oat, walnut, and raisin starry delights:

1/3 cup GF oat flour (or use GF rolled oats and process in a food processor until a flour consistency)
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnuts
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sprinkles - eg edible gold stars

If using rolled oats, make them into flour first in the food processor.

Add all the ingredients into a food processor and process thoroughly. To begin with, it won't look like it will ever come together, but keep processing and eventually it'll form a ball in the processor.  Timing will very depending on the power of your processor will be at least 2 minutes.
Remove from the processor and flatten on parchment paper. Use a rolling pin and roll into a square or rectangle.  Cut into squares with a sharp knife.  This will yield approximately 16 x 1 inch squares.  Decorate or leave plain. Store in the refrigerator.

Arrange in a small tin or box for gifting or enjoy for yourself.


They can last 2 weeks in the fridge or can be frozen.

Gluten free, refined sugar free and dairy free.  You can cut them into bars for larger snacks/cookies or roll them into balls if you prefer.
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Golden Raisins

I seem to have spent the last couple of days with my hands in sticky fruit juice! What with pulling each little seedless green grape off his stalk to dehydrate them to make golden raisins/sultanas, and with chopping the cherry tomatoes and apples, it's been sticky, sticky, sticky!


I'm delighted with the sultanas/golden raisins.  They don't look particularly golden - but they are! Sultanas/golden raisins are green grapes, and raisins are red grapes.  When you buy golden raisins, they are often a paler color because of the addition of sulphites, which of course I didn't add.

About half way dry
But pulling all the grapes off the stems was a little tedious! I tried dehydrating some of them in little bunches as I thought they would be useful decoratively on dishes..... Surprisingly, those in bunches seem to dry out quicker than individual grapes. I don't quite understand that as you'd think there would be more air flow around individual grapes?????

Little bunch of sultanas
After about 9 trays, I had had enough of de-stemming and juiced the rest.


The juice is so grapey!  No surprise really, but it tastes different than other grape juice - because it's a different grape varietal than is used commercially.  It's not too sweet...but it is bordering on the sweet side!  It came out lovely and clear however.


Happy grape successes! Now onto tomatoes and apples.....before the pears start ripening!
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