October is here, and that’s bad news, because it means that summer is over. The coming half year is going to be bleak and despondent, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. October itself is pretty nice: decent temperatures, good-looking trees everywhere, darkness still more or less at bay. It’s that one month that makes you believe that autumn will be OK (and then November comes and smacks you in the face with violent rain and wind and you remember that autumn is just as shitty as winter but it just has a better PR department).
Either way, I get pretty upset about the arrival of the shitty season, so I need a lot of things to keep my spirits up. You know how some people have Christmas to look forward to and to get them through winter? I have stuff like that too. In Scotland I had the Irn Bru carnival, and after that there’s my birthday, and then the Six Nations for February. You know, just those things that keep you going when really all you want to do is hibernate in a dark room under a pile of blankets.
Something else that I find pretty comforting in these dark times is all the delicious seasonal food that you don’t get to eat in other months of the year. Sure, you can get a lot of products year-round now, but that’s not really the same, is it? You hardly feel like binging on sauerkraut and pumpkin in July. For this month, chestnuts have a special place in my heart, and my diet. This time of the year there’s always guys standing around in Via Roma, one of the main streets here in Turin, selling roasted chestnuts in little bags folded from old newspapers. Those are totally delicious, and I’m sure I’ll be tempted once or twice this month to support their noble cause, but there’s one thing even better, and that’s going out to the hills and foraging your own. We did so a couple of weeks ago, and I turned them into chestnut tagliatelle, which are, as the people these days call it, ‘amazeballs’.
In order to make chestnut tagliatelle (or chestnut pasta in any other shape you like), first we need to make chestnut flour. Now beware: whatever weight of flour you need, you’ll need to find at least double the weight in chestnuts, but you’re probably safer to go for quadruple the weight. Of all the chestnuts you’ll find, you’ll have to chuck out a large part because they’re mouldy on the inside, or worse, they’ve got a worm. Although you can avoid a lot of bad ones by picking only firm, healthy looking chestnuts, sometimes it’s impossible to tell which ones will be good and which ones are inedible. After the elimination of the bad chestnuts, you’ll still have to peel them, taking away more weight, and then, in order to make them into flour, you need to dry them, evaporating moisture and reducing the weight yet again.
If all of this sounds too troublesome, just buy chestnut flour in a bag and use that.
For 4 people, use:
- 200 gr of chestnut flour
- 200 gr of normal flour
- 3 eggs
- pinch of salt
You’ll also need
- some extra flour for dusting
- if you have a pasta machine that’s cool, if not, you’ll need a rolling pin
- some cling film
As condiment to the pasta, I used:
- some butter
- some freshly grated parmesan because that shit is awesome
- some roasted, roughly chopped hazelnuts
- some olive oil
Grab your chestnuts, give them a rinse if they’re particularly dirty, them start the selection process: take a sharp knife, cut each chestnut in half, check for worms, eggs, mold or other stuff you don’t want to put in your mouth. If it’s OK, pop it in a roasting tin. Once you have a good quantity going, put them in the oven on 75 degrees for an hour or so. This way you’ll dry your chestnuts without roasting them.
When they’re done, peel them (try to take of most of the fluff as well, but don’t worry too much if you can’t get it off), and pop them in a food processor or blender. Grind them up until you’ve got a flour that’s fine enough to work with. Weigh to make sure you’ve got enough, then mix it with the normal flour. Add the eggs, mix well, and as soon as you’ve got a relatively smooth dough, start working it with your hands. Add more flour if it’s too sticky, or a little bit of water if it’s dry (which will depend for a large part on how dry your chestnuts were before you made them into flour – remember there’s not right or wrong here, just different).
When you’ve got a smooth ball, roll it up into some cling film and let it rest for anything from half an hour up to half a day. Now either
a) use your awesome pasta machine to make some bad ass tagliatelle. Experiment with thickness, see what works for you. Keep in mind that too thick will take longer to cook and the chestnut flour might come out a little bit chewy as it is, whilst too thin will make your pasta fall apart if the flour is quite coarsely ground. Aim roughly for the middle ground.
b) roll your pasta out with a rolling pin to the desired thickness (about 1,5 mm probably), dust with flour, roll it up, cut into strips of about 1 cm thick, roll those out and BEHOLD!, you have beautiful tagliatelle.
Try to cut your tagliatelle as close to cooking them as possible – if they are slightly sticky they’ll be harder to pull apart the longer you wait. I make these mistakes so you don’t have to.
Now that you’ve got the hard part out of the way, roast and chop up some hazelnuts, grate your cheese, grab a knob of butter and some olive oil, and chuck all of this in with the pasta after you’ve boiled and drained it. This shit will blow your minds, people.