Fancy a different take on chestnuts this Christmas? Hugh adds a sweet twist with his marrons glacé
1. With a sharp knife, make a couple of nicks across the pointed end of each chestnut. Place all the chestnuts in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile put 500g granulated sugar in a pan with 250ml water. Heat slowly, stirring, until the sugar is dissolved, then add the vanilla pod and bring to the boil.
3. Remove the chestnuts from the heat. Have ready a bowl of warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice in it. It is important to remove only one chestnut at a time from the pan of hot water: peel back the thick leathery skins and the thin papery inner skin of each nut, to reveal the golden kernel inside. Drop each peeled chestnut into the bowl of acidulated water. When the chestnuts are all shelled, drain and dry them thoroughly.
4. Drop the chestnuts into the hot sugar syrup. Bring up to a simmer and cook gently for 25-30 minutes or until tender (the time will depend on the size of the chestnuts).
5. Meanwhile, prepare the final glaze by putting the 450g sugar and 150ml water in a small pan. Heat slowly, stirring, to dissolve the sugar, then boil for 5 minutes.
6. Using a slotted spoon, remove the chestnuts from their cooking syrup and place them on a wire cooling rack. Add the chestnutty cooking syrup to the glaze syrup and bring back to the boil. Then remove from the heat.
7. Put a small bowl over a pan of simmering water. Pour a little of the glazing syrup into the bowl, so it stays hot. Have ready a second small bowl with freshly boiled water in it. Using a skewer, take a chestnut. Dunk it first in the hot water, then swizzle it in the hot sugar syrup in the bowl. Place on a wire rack to cool. Repeat with all the chestnuts, topping up the bowl of syrup with more syrup from the pan if you need to. Leave the chestnuts to dry in a warm airing cupboard or a very, very low oven (around 50°C) for 10-12 hours. Then wrap each chestnut in a twist of greaseproof paper.
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