Gâteau de Marrons de l’Ardèche

Ardéchois Chestnut Gâteau

In Le Trésor de la cuisine du bassin méditerranéen Prosper Montagné revised and prefaced a collection of recipes from seventy French doctors. Enlivened by many small woodcuts and one gruesome advertisement for the digestive medicines of Dr Zizine, the recipes are interesting. This is Dr Cleu’s recipe which I have adapted only slightly.

Ingredients

  • 450 g(1 lb) large chestnuts, preferably from the Ardèche
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sunflower oil
  • 85 g(3 oz) plus 2 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 150 ml(¼ pt) single cream or creamy milk
  • ½ vanilla pod
  • 1 large egg, separated
  • a small knob of butter
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • vanilla- or chocolate-flavoured pouring cream

Method

Make a small cut in the outer skin of each chestnut. Cover with cold water, add the salt and oil and bring to the boil slowly. Simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and, when cool enough to handle, peel the chestnuts carefully, removing the outer and inner skin.

Make caramel by dissolving 85 g(3 oz) sugar in 2 tablespoons water over low heat. Turn up the heat and cook until orange-brown. Pour into a buttered straight-sided mould of 570 ml(1 pint) capacity and coat the base and half-way up the sides. When cool rub a little butter over the caramel.

Heat the cream or milk with the vanilla pod, stirring to extract the flavour. Remove the pod and add the chestnuts. Cook together, stirring, for 5 minutes. Purée the mixture by sieving or processing with 2 tablespoons sugar and the egg yolk until almost completely smooth.

Whisk the egg white until stiff and fold into the chestnut mixture. Turn into the mould and smooth level. Cover with a buttered paper cut to fit.

Cook in a bain-marie in a moderate oven (Mark 4, 180°C, 350°F) for 25–30 minutes until the gâteau is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the bain-marie. Chill until ready to serve.

Run the blade of a knife around the gâteau and turn out on to a flat serving dish. Pour over the rum and serve, cut into wedges, with a little of the pouring cream.

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