Being a foodie has it down sides. Apart from the inevitable battle of the bulge (i.e. weight gain, not anything to do with trumpets) and the critical assessment of every meal you eat, you end up with an odd assortment of ingredients lurking in the fridge and cupboards and nothing real to eat on a day to day basis. Or at least I do. After a bit of a cupboard tidy out at the weekend (really to fit in more special buys), I found a tin of chestnut puree (out of date by 6 months) and some tiny jars of homemade marron glacé in syrup (in which the sugar had crystalised – I made them at least 2 years ago). Most of the recipes I searched for required sweetened chestnut puree or marron glacé puree but they sounded too sweet and sickly. So this recipe is a hash up of a couple of different recipes; Nigella in’How to be a Dometic Goddess’ and this recipe on someone else’s blog. My recipe can easy be made dairy free (see the added notes) and is naturally gluten free, being based on ground almonds and the chestnut puree. It is not calorie or guilt free; it is rich and dense but not overwhelmingly sweet or cloying like some chestnut based recipes can be. It is so moreish and decadent; perfect for this for this time of year. And apparently chestnuts are good for you.
This year I bought my chestnuts from Oxford covered market and they are a complete contrast to the ones in the supermarkets. They are so large, moist and sweet. We roasted them on our sitting rom fire last weekend and the sweet nutty smell filled the house with seasonal joy. I made my own marron glacé a few years ago but I have to say it was not worth the effort, no matter how expensive they are! I did find a small jar of crumbled bits in syrup that I had stashed away and that made a perfect finish for this cake. Feel free to buy them rather than make them; I won’t hold it against you. Next time will try adding 250g melted plain chocolate to the mixture, as Nigella has in her recipe. This recipe is very rich and feeds 10-12 easily. It doesn’t need cream to counteract any sweetness but some creme fraiché would go well if serving this cake for desert.