11 Go nuts

With Ac­ci­den­tal Cook Rus­sell Nor­man

Esquire (UK) - - Style -

At this time of the year you’ll find me in my lo­cal park, drawn by the abun­dance of glossy, plump new sea­son’s chest­nuts. On clear, crisp morn­ings I’m out with a bucket and a pair of gloves, col­lect­ing as many as deco­rum and re­straint per­mit.

There are cer­tain in­gre­di­ents that have such a strong, sea­sonal as­so­ci­a­tion that it is dif­fi­cult to imag­ine them at an­other time of the year. Straw­ber­ries in win­ter? For­get it. Brus­sels sprouts in the sum­mer? You’re hav­ing a laugh. Cad­bury’s Creme Eggs on New Year’s Day? On your bike! (Er, wait a mo­ment. I Googled it and ap­par­ently you can get Creme Eggs on New Year’s Day. Those sick­oes at Cad­bury’s HQ...)

Top of the tree in the sea­sonal in­gre­di­ent stakes is the chest­nut. Whether it’s Nat King Cole croon­ing about them roast­ing on an open fire, or soot-fin­gered street ven­dors sell­ing them for a quid a bag, I can’t think of win­ter with­out chest­nuts, or vice versa for that mat­ter. And as the nights get longer and the days get colder, Christ­mas gives this nut an even deeper res­o­nance: chest­nuts are as es­sen­tial to the sea­son as mince pies, roast turkey, mulled wine and the Queen’s Speech.

This recipe uses the sub­tle smoky tang and firm tex­ture of chest­nuts as an ac­com­pa­ni­ment to gently spiced meat. It’s my vari­a­tion of a north­ern Ital­ian ragu called le secoe, nor­mally made with fatty beef from the spinal col­umn of the cow and a smidge of cin­na­mon. It’s a de­li­cious al­ter­na­tive to bog-stan­dard Bolog­nese, less saucy and toma­toey, and a per­fect way to cel­e­brate those won­der­ful sea­sonal flavours. In­sta­gram: Rus­sel­l_Nor­man

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