This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
Of all known Nuts the Spanish Chestnut (Stover Nut, or Meat Nut) is the most farinaceous, or starchy, and the least oily, so that it is more easy of digestion than any other. Italian Chestnut Cakes contain 40 per cent of nutritious matter, and Chestnut flour, when properly prepared, are capital food for children. The ripe Chestnut possesses a fine creamy flavour, and if roasted this Nut becomes almost aromatic. The diet of Italian poor people consists chiefly of Chestnuts during the autumn and winter, when these are eaten roasted, or prepared like a stew with gravy. Likewise in Corea the Chestnut has almost the same popular place for food as the potato occupies with the Irish. To make a Chestnut puree, take two pounds of good sound Chestnuts, cut the tops off; and. put the nuts to bake for about twenty minutes; then remove the shells, and skins; put the nuts into a stewpan, with enough light stock to make of a pale lemon shade; add salt, and some castor sugar, also a pat of butter; simmer till the nuts are tender, then pound them, and rub them through a fine wire sieve, mixing them with a little cream (and anisette, if liked); work into a smooth paste, put it into a forcing-bag with a large rose pipe, and use.
For convalescents after a protracted illness, the French make a chocolate of sweet Chestnuts which is highly restorative. In olden times Chestnuts were common rations supplied to our soldiers; and when it seemed probable that a castle would be besieged, out went the soldiers and laid violent hands on all the stores of Chestnuts within ready reach. Nowadays in Italy, and elsewhere on the Continent, meat having become a luxury, Chestnuts are the staple food of the people. "Hodge-Podge," or "Hotch-Potch," is a ragout made with Chestnuts. For Chestnut soup (according to an old Italian recipe), "finely chop two small onions, one carrot, two leeks, and a quarter stick of celery; fry with butter until browned; add one quart of stock, three or four cloves, and salt to taste; stew over a slow fire for one hour. Take three or four dozen Chestnuts, according to size, and peel off the outside husk; then place them in an ordinary stewpan, stirring them about until they are sufficiently cooked for removal of the second envelope, or shell; stew them for half-an-hour in half the prepared liquor; put apart some whole Chestnuts to garnish the soup; chop the remainder, and strain them through a sieve with the liquor they have been boiled in; add the remainder of the prepared stock; stew over a slow fire for six or seven, minutes; place the whole Chestnuts in the tureen, and pour the soup over."Steak and Chestnuts is a capital food combination for completing recovery after a long illness.
Boil one pound of Chestnuts until they are soft; remove the shells, and husks, and make the nuts smooth with a wooden spoon; add to them one pound of very finely minced juicy beef (rejecting all skin, gristle, etc.); season the mixture with salt, pepper (red and white), and mustard to taste;, also add half-an-ounce of grated parsley, one shalot (finely minced), and about a dessertspoonful of finely-scraped horse-radish; make it into a paste with four or five eggs; press it rather firmly down in a deep dish, and make pretty devices on the top; lay little lumps of butter (about two,ounces altogether) here and there, and either bake it in a good hot oven, or roast it before the fire; it should be of a warm, brown colour, and must be served very hot.
Professor Andrew Smith, of New York, found that roasted Chestnuts, when eaten, signally lessen the quantity of albumin in the urine of patients suffering from what is known as Bright's disease of the kidneys, this effect being largely due to the tannic acid which the Chestnuts contain. "Take some Chestnuts, and make a small incision in the skin of each one; throw them into boiling water, and let them remain until tender; remove the shells, and skins; dry the Chestnuts in the oven, and afterwards reduce them to powder by pounding in a mortar; the powder may be made hot again, and then served as a vegetable".
Similarly at St. Petersburg it has been shown that roasted Italian Chestnuts have a marked effect in diminishing the albumin excreted in the urine of such patients. A good way to cook these Chestnuts is to boil them for twenty minutes, and then place them in a Dutch oven for five more minutes. "Zounds," cried Phutatorius (Tristram Shandy, Cap. xxvii., Sterne), "when a roasted chestnut, piping hot, rolled from the table into that particular aperture of his small clothes, for which - to the shame of our language be it spoke, - there is no chaste word throughout all Johnson's Dictionary; that particular aperture which the laws of decorum do strictly require like the Temple of Janus (in peace, at least) to be universally shut up."Americans consider sweet Chestnuts, and likewise leaves from the tree, excellent for staying the paroxysms of whooping cough. Continental confectioners dip the cooked nuts into clarified sugar, converting them thus into sweetmeats. The Chestnuts contain 50 per cent of starch.
Californian Indians make a very liberal use for food purposes of the Horse Chestnut (Hippo-castaneus cescvlus), from which nuts they produce both porridge and bread, the flour being first well washed so as to extract the tannin from it, and then boiled like oatmeal; or it is mixed with red clay so that the oil may be absorbed, and afterwards it is baked in loaves. In New England, as well as in this country, the Horse Chestnut, by its nut, supplies a most serviceable medicine against chronic constipation of the bowels, and for the cure of sluggish piles.