View; Chestnuts

6 Sep

Surprises from the upstairs bus window this morning:  conkers ripening on chestnuts; leaves withering; pears dripping from a tree.

Speaking of chestnuts, did you know there is a World Conker Championship? You don’t, however, have to travel all the way to Northamptonshire to play the game: any park with a horse chestnut tree nearby will do.   Find a fallen conker, make a hole in it, then thread a shoelace or length of string through it.  The objective is to hit your partner’s conker with your own until one of them breaks. The hardest conker wins.

Usefully, you can cheat at the game by using a conker you gathered the previous year and allowed to harden. Quite.

Horse chestnuts, incidentally, are not the trees from which those delicious roasted chestnuts originate, and which Bonne Maman sells as beurre de marron (chestnut butter).  Those are more likely to be the fruit of sweet chestnut trees.

My favourite celeb chef, Nigel Slater, had this to say about chestnut butter in the Guardian recently:

My favourite is to use it in a dessert with meringues. Crumble the meringues into a bowl, fold in a little whipped cream, squeeze the chestnut purée from the tube over the top, then spoon over some melted dark chocolate.


I don’t expect horse chestnuts taste of anything much, really. Better just to beat the hell out of them on a playing field.


7 Responses to “View; Chestnuts”

  1. Keri September 6, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    that dessert with meringue and chestnut cream sounds heavenly..

    I really love this blog! It makes me miss England!

    • Vivienne Hambly September 6, 2009 at 10:03 pm #

      It does sound lovely, doesn’t it? And very easy. Actually, I’ve some meringues left over from a lunch party a few weeks ago. Might see how it works.
      Although there’s plenty of evidence of a shift in seasonal patterns, what I love about them here is that they’re still so distinct: this is summer (miserable though it is); this is autumn and so on. Just need the accompanying outfits now.

  2. Clare September 8, 2009 at 11:45 am #

    Love the meringue idea – a step up from gran’s crumbled with ice cream, eh?

    • Vivienne September 15, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

      Although Granny’s meringues and ice cream had a special place in my childhood – may well have had something to do with lifting the lid on one of her old cake tins when I wasn’t supposed to and inhaling the scent of all that forbidden sugar.

  3. maureen September 8, 2009 at 7:46 pm #

    I’ve had roasted chestnuts (shelled) with Brussels sprouts in England. They went together rather well. When we visited Rome back in the 1970s(!)the roast chestnut vendors reportedly had a fight and started heaving hot coals from their braziers around!

  4. JamesA-S September 23, 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    Hang on one minute, I must step in here.
    Two things:
    Firstly: It is an absolute scandal that you should be suggesting that people cheat at conkers. Not only that, your beastly ruse will not work: a year old conker is a mean and shrivelled thing. The inside may be harder but will have shrunk a bit leaving the outer shell vulnerable.
    Secondly: A conker (whether in training or not) should be a thing of beauty: deep brown and shiny. Your old conker will be dull coloured and crinkly.
    It is like comparing WHAuden with a baby’s bottom.

    • Vivienne October 4, 2009 at 9:54 pm #

      You’ve caught me out, James. You, I presume, have never cheated at conkers, have you?

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