Chestnut trees grow everywhere in Romania, apart from the regions where summers are too hot to handle. Their ideal environment is on the gentle slopes of the Carpathian mountains, away from the craggy peaks and high altitude. They love the rolling landscape of Transylvania’s plateau sheltered by the mountains, and the soft descent of the river valleys in Oltenia, in the south-west.
At the markets, this is the time of year when you can buy roasted chestnuts to eat while browsing through the stalls. I used to put one in each pocket, to keep my hands warm on my way home. If my sister was with me and if it happened that I had eaten all of my chestnuts, she would try to sell me a couple. She always needed money to buy cigarettes, of course without my parents knowing.
The other very popular way of eating chestnuts in Romania was to buy chestnut purée, deliciously sweet and with a dash of rum. We would put it in a glass and add whipped cream, or just eat it straight from the jar. My dad always bought it from Transylvania, where the purée was (still is) the best in the country. It is popular in Hungary, too.
While I’m thinking about all this, I take a jar of chestnut purée from the cupboard, open it and take in the sweet aroma, trying to figure out if it needs more rum. It does. I add a splash more and put everything in a bowl. I add the cocoa powder and melt the butter. Mix everything together, then pour it in a small ceramic baking dish. You can use a terrine dish, too, or loaf tin, a ramekin…anything really. Just think of creating a layer of chestnut torte, not too thin, not too high either. Mine was…..Read on for the recipe:
Ingredients: serves 4-6
- 500g chestnut purée
- 1tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 egg yolk
- 100g melted butter
- 200g tangy jam, I used quince
- 250g double cream
- 1tsp vanilla essence
Whisk together the purée, cocoa powder, egg yolk and melted butter. Line the dish that you chose with clingfilm and pour in the mixture. Set in the fridge for 2 hours to firm up.
Turn the dish upside down on a plate, peel off the clingfilm and add the jam on top. Whisk the double cream with vanilla to firm peaks, then using a tablespoon, scoop out some cream and drop it on top. Work from left to right, so the scoops are one next to another. Dust with a bit of cocoa powder, slice and serve.