Chestnuts roasting under a hot grill take me back

Sweet chuestnuts with guinea fowl, sage and onion.
Sweet chuestnuts with guinea fowl, sage and onion.
Skye McAlpine.

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There are some very distinctive smells from food items that remind me of my childhood.

There are some very distinctive smells from food items that remind me of my childhood.

Guinea fowl.

Guinea fowl.

The aroma of fresh, yeasty bread reminds me of my father who used to bake two large loaves on Sunday mornings and in the autumn would take us to huge woods to collect chestnuts.

The smell of sweet chestnuts roasting under a hot grill takes me back and always puts a smile on my face.

If you can’t get into the woods to collect these shiny brown nuts I know that they can be bought in many greengrocers. I have even seen them cooked and peeled in the supermarket making themeven easier for you to use.

If you get the chestnuts whole you will have to score the shell with a knife before roasting for 15 minutes or boiling for 20.

The outer brown shell can then be removed easily but you will need some patience to remove the membrane. It’s best not trying to do this if you’re in a hurry.

The nuts are now ready and can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

I am currently using them in a chocolate torte served with white chocolate ice-cream, but this savoury recipe is for guinea fowl.

Sweet chestnuts with guinea fowl, sage and onion


4 guinea fowl breasts.

4 onions finely chopped.


Knob of butter.

Tablespoon double cream.

Handful sage leaves.

200g prepared chestnuts.

4 slices pancetta.


1. Prepare the onion purée by slowly cooking the onions and bayleaf in the butter for 15 minutes without colouring.

2. Add the double cream and cook for a further three minutes.

3. Remove the bay and liquidise the onions.

4. Pass the purée through a fine sieve and keep warm.

5. Pan-fry the breasts for two minutes and transfer to a hot oven 200c/gas 6 for 12 to 15 minutes. Allow to rest for at least six minutes.

6. Roast the bacon until crispy in the same oven.

7. Fry the chestnuts in a little butter until they start to colour then add the sage leaves.

8. Spoon some onion purée on to four plates. Top with chestnuts and the guinea fowl. Add the pancetta and serve with a few greens.

Lawrence Murphy’s restaurant is Fat Olives ( on 01243 377914.