Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chestnut stuffing balls

These chestnuts were on special at my favourite Asian foodmarket the other day. I bought two packets and ate one on my way back to work. Too yummy!

I decided I'd have a bash at inventing something tasty to put in bentos. I adore stuffing, and had in mind a sort of stuffing ball, so I started off searching the web for chestnut stuffing recipes (I usually make sage and onion breadcrumb stuffing myself), then checked out what other things go with chestnuts.

I came to the conclusion that I'd be just as well off using my usual stuffing flavours, but instead of using breadcrumbs and butter, I'd use chestnuts and see what I needed in the way of moistening material when I got that far.

So here I have 100g (minus the one I ate) of shelled roast chestnuts which I processed in the food processor until they were breadcrumb-like …

… and a few sage leaves and some stalks of thyme, from which I stripped the leaves …

… I chopped the herbs …

… and peeled and diced half a small onion …

… I added the onion, herbs, a little salt, and half a teaspoon of baking powder (to make the balls less solid) to the chestnut …

… and whizzed it up. It was still crumbly, so I debated whether to bind it with egg or milk. All the stuffing recipes I found used chicken stock or something similar, so I figured egg wasn't necessary to make it stick together, and besides, I had a bit of milk left over in my steaming jug from my afternoon coffee. Milk it was then; I added just enough, bit by bit, to turn the crumbly mixture into a thick paste:

I rolled eight balls slightly smaller than golf balls, then thought I'd vary the rest by adding a nugget of something to the interiors. I'd have liked to use cranberries, but didn't have any. Likewise dried sour cherries. Most of the dried fruit I have would be too sweet, but then I thought of prunes. I like prunes, and they go well with pork. Sage and thyme also go well with pork, and I bet chestnuts do too. Prunes are therefore likely to go well with sage and thyme and chestnuts, I thought to myself. So I made eight more chestnut balls with prune quarters inside:

I put them all on a silicon mat-covered oven tray, and baked them at 180˚C (350˚F) for about 15 minutes.

And they are delicious.

They would be improved by the addition of fat, either by roasting in it or frying in it, but then most things are improved by fat unfortunately. A light spray of olive oil before putting in the oven would help crispify the outsides, but they really are very nice the way they are.

They work out at about 30 kcal per prune ball or 25 kcal per plain one.

I am going to enter them in Maki's vegetarian bento recipe competition.

Prune & Chestnut Stuffing Ball Recipe

100 g peeled roast chestnuts
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped finely
1 tsp fresh sage, chopped finely
a little milk (or vege stock to make vegan)
4 prunes, quartered

Preheat oven to 180˚C (350˚F)
Process all ingredients except the milk and prunes in a food processor, until the mixture has the texture of fine breadcrumbs.
Add milk a teaspoon at a time, whizzing between additions, until the mixture forms a thick paste.
Divide into 16 portions and roll into balls. Press 1/4 of a prune into each and re-form the ball around it.
Bake on either a greased tray or a silicon mat in 180˚C (350˚F) oven for around 15 minutes.

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