Bergell smoked chestnuts

Dominik Flammer

South Tyrolean chef Hansjörg Ladurner, who works in Lenzerheide in Canton Graubünden and is a pioneer in Alpine cuisine, recently won second prize in a major competition at CULINARIUM ALPINUM in Stans (Canton Nidwalden) to promote a new canapé culture. He won with a bread roll filled with bacon from black Alpine pig and all kinds of other ingredients. Made from smoked chestnut flour, this bread impressed the judges with its crunchy crust, highly seasoned crumb and smoked chestnut pieces. We have the traditions of the Italian-speaking valley of Bergell in the south of Graubünden to thank for these products. Here the Alpine farmer, Marco Giovanoli, smokes the chestnuts in their shells, ensuring that they last as long as possible. While the chestnuts are dried in the sun without smoke in the neighbouring valleys in the Southern Alps – in Vintschgau in South Tyrol or the Aosta Valley, for example – in Soglio in the Bergell valley, Giovanoli’s chestnuts end up on the drying floor of his special chestnut smoking hut, where they are dried in chestnut wood smoke at approx. 60-80°C for 6 weeks. The dried chestnuts have a smoky flavour that goes perfectly with game dishes. In his restaurant in Lenzerheide, gourmet chef Ladurner uses them to make not only bread but also a wonderful smoked chestnut ice cream. Graubünden chef Rebecca Clopath prefers to use these smoky and potent chestnuts to make her dried chestnut tart, which she serves with rose hip and a rose sour cream. This is a sophisticated recipe for these dried chestnuts, which used to serve as provisions for travelling shepherds and as an early form of chewing gum – they need to be softened for a long time in the mouth before they can be broken down. One of the most enjoyable combinations I’ve come across recently in Bergell was a salad with lentils, butter beans and Bergell smoked chestnuts with a salad dressing made from camelina oil, plum vinegar and lots of fresh coriander and lovage. An autumn dish that can be adapted in lots of different ways. A game sausage made from Graubünden venison would go beautifully with this salad.




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