Sweet chestnuts are everywhere at this time of year. Walk in any park, anywhere in England, and you are likely to find yourself amid a carpet of spiky green chestnut cases. Crack them open (with your foot – it’s impossible to open them with your hands without getting spiked) and you will find… well, not exactly a bounty. The vast majority of sweet chestnuts that grow wild here just aren’t big enough to bother with. By the time you have roasted them, peeled them and removed the inner husk you are left with a few grams of nothing much.
To my delight, the other day we were walking the dog and happened upon a feast of good-sized sweet chestnuts. They were as fat as conkers so we filled our pockets – but what to do with them? Digging through the books I found a recipe for sweet chestnut and apple puree (thanks, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall) which was delicious, but needed something else alongside it to make a proper dessert. My solution was to stew some more apples, get some creme fraiche to cut through the sweetness, and a handful of ready-made granola to add some crunch and create a store-cupboard delight that I’m sure Nigella would be happy with. It’s not quite a trifle, not quite a fool, and a bit like a trifle, so Crifle it is. You will probably need to buy some cooked whole chestnuts, but they are easily obtainable from supermarkets.
We love it, it didn’t last long.
RECIPE – serves 8 as a dessert
For the chestnut and apple puree:
200g cooked chestnuts
300g eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
25g unsalted butter
150ml apple juice
25g caster sugar
For the stewed apples:
3 medium eating apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cooking apple, peeled, cored and sliced
1 tbsp caster sugar
50ml apple juice
For the crifle:
200g creme fraiche
1 good handful of ready-made granola
If preparing your own chestnuts: heat the oven to 180C/ gas 4. Cut a cross in each chestnut (otherwise they will explode in the oven), place on a roasting tray and roast for 20 minutes. Upon removal from the oven, brace yourself and peel off the tough outer skins and lighter furry husks inside. Why do you have to brace yourself? Because it is impossible to peel them when they have cooled so you have to peel them hot, and it’s a bit painful! It is worth it though…
To make the chestnut and apple puree: put the chestnuts, apples, butter, apple juice and caster sugar into a saucepan, melt together and bring to a gentle simmer, stirring often, for about 20 minutes until the apples are soft. Allow to cool slightly then blitz to a puree using either a stick blender or a freestanding blender. Set aside to cool completely.
Now make the stewed apples: put all the apples, sugar and apple juice in a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes. The eating apples should be just soft, and the cooking apple should have reduced itself to a mush. Tip into the bottom of a glass trifle bowl, or similar, and allow to cool completely.
When the stewed apples and the puree are cool, spread the puree over the stewed apples in an even layer. Now spread the creme fraiche over the puree in another thin, even layer. Top with a good handful of granola, scattered all over the top.