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Wild harvest: sweet chestnut cheesecake

Autumn is the season for sweet chestnuts. Look for them in the forest or park and use them in the most delicious dishes. Make sure you choose the right chestnuts when you pick them, because not all of them are edible. You have the sweet, edible chestnut with a slightly sweet taste and the wild, inedible horse chestnut. You can use this as a natural detergent because the horse chestnut is related to the soap tree family. With 6 kilos of chestnuts you can wash for up to a year. Anyway, only the sweet chestnut is suitable for culinary use. Raw they taste a bit nutty. The taste gets better and a little sweeter when you roast or boil them. Make a cross in the top of the chestnuts with a sharp knife. Roasting on a grid over the campfire is the tastiest (and cosiest) but you can also roast in the oven at 200°C for 15-20 minutes. The chestnuts are ready when they pop open. In Paris, Milan and Barcelona you will see stalls on the streets in winter selling roasted chestnuts as a hot snack. This was also common in the Netherlands in the Middle Ages. In Amsterdam there was a lively street trade in this 'winter fruit'.
By Mölle slow food
The sweet chestnut is super healthy and has been eaten since prehistoric times. In some areas chestnut was the staple food for centuries, especially in the mountain areas where wheat hardly grows. In the southern French Cevennes and the Ardèche, the chestnut tree is also called l'Arbre de pain (bread tree). Chestnut flour is gluten-free and bursting with healthy nutrients that are good for your resistance such as starch, protein, vitamin C, vitamin B1, folic acid , vitamin E, potassium and zinc. That is why the Vitamin Information Bureau gives the chestnut the first place in the top 10 autumn vegetables. The ancient Greeks and Romans also described its medicinal properties. You can make the flour yourself or buy it at a health food store. On the internet you will find countless sweet and savory recipes with chestnuts, such as stew with chestnuts, spicy chestnut soup, chestnut bread, chestnut puree, chestnut trifle and chocolate chestnut truffles.

This recipe for sweet chestnut cheesecake is inspired by the recipe - Toerte van versche oft ghedroochde castagnen - written in the 17th century by the Fleming M. Antonius Magirus. The cookbook was very popular and the first edition dating from 1612 is in the collection of the Allard Pierson Museum in Amsterdam. Most of the recipes in this cookbook are based on the Italian cookbook: Opera dell'arte del cucinare from 1570 by Bartolomeo Scappi, the personal cook of Pope Pius V.
By Mölle sweet chestnut cake
sweet chestnut cheesecake
dough ingredients
• 250 gr flour
• 125 gr butter
• 100 gr sugar
• 1 egg

chestnut filling ingredients
• 500 gr unpeeled chestnuts
• 100 gr hazelnut chopped
• 500 gr quark 
• 250 gr ricotta
• 100 gr sugar
• 3 egg yolks
• 50 grams of raisins
• 50 grams of dried apricots in pieces
• 100 grams of dark chocolate with hazelnuts chopped into pieces (optional)
• zest of 1 organic lemon zest
• 3 teaspoons cinnamon
• little pinch of black pepper
Preheat the oven to 175˚ C. Mix the flour and butter together and add the sugar and beaten egg. Mix everything well and add just enough water to form a smooth dough. Place the dough in the refrigerator.
Cut the chestnuts in half and cook them in boiling water for 10 minutes. Then put them in a bowl with lukewarm water and peel the chestnuts. Cut the chestnuts into small pieces. Keep a few pieces of chestnut aside for garnish and puree the rest with all the ingredients until smooth. Finally, add the raisins, apricots and (optional) pieces of dark chocolate with hazelnuts and stir everything together. Butter a baking pan and divide the dough in it. Fill the chestnut mixture over the dough. Bake the cake in the oven for about 1 hour.
Delicious with raspberries, blueberries, red currants or (homemade) lemon curd. 

Reference: The transcription first edition Koocboec oft Familieren Keukenboec by M. Antonius Magirus from 1612 can be downloaded here  for free. It is not the real name of the author but a pseudonym. The M. probably stands for the academic title Magister, Latin for teacher.

Alle images are made with By Mölle tableware collection. Shop here
By Mölle slow food recipe
castanea sativa
The name of the sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) originates from the Greek city of Kastanéia in Pontus, where the chestnut tree was widely cultivated. The Romans changed the name to Castanea. Sativa means cultivated, useful or satiating. Wild and sweet chestnuts are often confused, but they belong to two different families. The edible sweet chestnut belongs to the beech family and has a small pointed plume. Unlike the inedible horse chestnut, which is completely round, without a tip. If you are not sure whether it is really the sweet chestnut, do not eat it. Collect on a small scale, leaving enough for squirrels and other animals. Put on gloves when searching because the husks have spiky needles. Another good technique for freeing the nuts from their sharp-needled shells is to use your foot (with shoe) to ‘press and roll’ over the nuts and they should pop out easily. Choose nice full chestnuts and leave the smaller or damaged ones. With the water test you can see which chestnuts are good for your dish. Only use the sweet chestnuts that sink to the bottom.