Chestnut Heaven

One of the things that I really like about winter is chestnut season.

I remember fondly when my grandmother would splurge and buy chestnuts every december. They were quite expensive when I was a child, but the house smelled so nice when she was roasting them in the oven. My first experience of eating fire roasted chestnuts was not until I lived in Europe. I couldn’t wait to see the vendors rolling their carts yelling “Roasted Chestnuts” in German, Italian or French. I loved biting into their floury goodness and now I enjoy finding recipes in which they can be used to accent a dish.

I had some goulash meat in the freezer that needed to be cooked and I started looking at recipes I hadn’t made yet. And since winter has begun here in Israel, and I had just bought a big bag of chestnuts, I started craving a hearty winter dish. I found an amazing recipe bursting with flavour. I am not sure where this dish originates from, but I know that it is from somewhere in the Caucasus. The spices, the walnuts, the pomegranate juice impart an amazing, dare I say orgasmic flavour to the dish and the house smelled like a spice market. I highly recommend this recipe and I will definitely make it again and again.

I didn’t have any sour apricots on hand, so I used dried sour cherries, but they were lost in the dish. I served it over a brown rice.

Beef Stew with Chestnuts and Pomegranate
  • 455 g 1 lb chestnuts roasted and shelled
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 800 g 1-3/4 lbs goulash or stew beef, cut into 1/2-inch cubes ( I used frozen goulash meat that I thawed out)
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric ground
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon ground
  • 1 cup walnuts minced fine
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup of sour apricots cut into quarters
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoon lemon juice freshly squeezed
  • 1-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon honey or date honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove minced fine
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley as garnish optional
  1. Heat the oil in a heavy casserole over medium heat. Saute the onions and garlic for 10 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the meat, turmeric, salt, pepper, and brown meat on all sides. Stir in the saffron, cinnamon, walnuts, sour apricots, tomato paste, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1-1/2 hours.
  2. Note: Depending on the cut of meat, you may need to cook this for 2 hours. Just make sure you check it half way through because you may need to add a little more liquid.
  3. Add the lemon juice, pomegranate juice, and chestnuts. Stir well, cover and simmer for 10 more minutes. Serve over a bed of saffron rice.
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