October is an incredibly generous month in Umbria. The weather is still mellow and sunny, the winds have cleared up the sky to porcelain blue, we’re counting the days to olive harvest.
This will be the first year we’ll have enough olive oil to sell because we have acquired 40 new olive trees with our new house . We are thrilled and also a bit worried by so many goals, guests, rebuilding, harvest….but sorry, I digress.
Chestnuts have finally made their irresistible appearance on the markets.
This humble fruit has been a staple of the Mediterranean diet for millennia. Near Mount Etna in Sicily there’s a chestnut tree which is believed to be between 2000 and 4000 years old. Chestnut trees are magnificent creatures, the Sicilian one is said to have sheltered a medieval queen and her 100 knights during a storm.
Every year we buy the first chestnuts, roast them and devour them in the evening accompanied by a glass of red wine. It’s a most convivial way to end a day and to celebrate the beginning of fall.
If you can’t buy them fresh, you can get your chestnut fix with this easy but sophisticated dessert. Look for chestnut spread, puree, paste or jam which is available from well know brands like e.g. Bonne Maman, Merchant gourmet or Faugier. The chestnut spread I use is very sweet, but you might need to add sugar if the product you buy is unsweetened.
- 250 gr. (9 oz, about 3/4 cup) chestnut jam
- 250 gr (9 oz, about 3/4 cup) mascarpone
- 125 gr (4.5 oz, about 1/2 cup) fresh ricotta
- 3 tablespoon toasted almonds or pine nuts
- 3 tablespoon orange liqueur or brandy
Stir the mascarpone into the ricotta and whisk until smooth. Swirl in the chestnut spread and distribute into 8 dessert cups or plates. Make sure to make small portions. It’s decadently rich, a small amount will go a long way. Don’t be tempted to douse it in a thick sauces or melted chocolate which will overpower the delicate yet intense flavor of the cream.
If the dessert needs to wait, cover with cling film and refrigerate. Just before serving, toast the nuts and sprinkle them while still warm on the cream. If you feel the portion is too little – I don’t – serve with some additional decoration like ice cream wafers or other light biscuits. Drizzle with a little liqueur and serve.
As I make this dessert in the fall when I also make often poached pears, I like to drizzle the cream with any leftover of poaching wine I might have. Sometime I also top it with caramelized almonds instead of plain toasted almonds, it’s a fabulous combination.