Halloween is celebrated in a completely different way in Hungary, than in English-speaking countries. It is about remembrance family members and friends who are gone. It is partly sad but also somehow beautiful because we go to the cemeteries together with our families and light candle for the ones who are not with us any more. The candle is the symbol of a memory and if you look around in the cemeteries you can see little candle lights everywhere. It is really beautiful and touching. After we got home we always have gesztenyepüré (chestnut cream with whipped cream) known as Mont Blanc in France. It is a family tradition which could be strange even for other Hungarians. The tradition comes from my sister, who knew very well, that having a glass of cream chestnut with cream is a perfect way to warm up your heart.
As a child it was very difficult for me to work up losing somebody. I was 6 years old when my grandfather died and I was devastated because I loved him so much and the fact of his death seemed to me unacceptable. Halloween was even more difficult, I was walking beside of my family in the cemetery and and I had the feeling I was carrying stones on my shoulders or even in my heart. It was hard for my sister too- who has such a big heart- to see me being so sad. One year she decided she won’t let me go down again. She took my hand, embraced me and told me funny stories and jokes until I started to laugh which is really unacceptable behaviour in a cemetery. But even my parents who raised us being well-educated, didn’t have anything against it. Actually they were just relieved by seeing me laughing instead of my sorrowful silence. My sister had the idea to prepare chestnut cream when we got home, I think she wanted to make sure I forget about sadness completely. Having this sweet and creamy dessert felt so good after being outside in the cold wind. After that it became a family tradition and in the following year little by little I have changed. I am not walking any more in sorrowful silence, even after there are already two names on my grandfather’s grave: his and my grandmother’s. I remember and imagine talking to them and tell them that autumn is really beautiful this year and that I am so happy to walk with my sister arm in arm, and have Áron on my side. Áron, my boyfriend, who is always my partner in my crazinesses…As for example last year at Halloween when he joined me late night when I was taking pictures of the picturesque cemetery with thousands of lights in our little village.
This year I want to make this day even more special, so instead of buying prepared chestnut cream in the supermarket, I make it myself. I take my grandmother’s old meat mincer and potato ricer which gives me the feeling as she were beside of me while I cook and mince chestnuts, mix it with the sugar syrup and serve it layered with the whipped cream in pretty glasses.
Gesztenyepüré, chestnut puree with whipped cream
1000 g chestnut
200 g caster sugar
30 ml water (can be replaces partly with rhum)
1/2 vanilla bean
400 ml cream
4 tsp. confectioner’s sugar (or according to your taste)
Wash the chestnut and cut an X shape into the round side of the chestnut. Put it into a pot, fill it up with cold water and bring it to boil. Cook the chestnuts until soft (approximately 30 minutes from boiling) You can check if it is cooked by cutting one piece into half. If the texture is lightly floury inside, it is cooked. Leave it in the hot water and take out only the ones you are peeling. (it is easier to peel when they are hot). Mince it with a meat-mincer, than prepare a thick sugar syrup by mixing water and sugar with the vanilla bean. Bring it to boil and wait until sugar dissolves. Add the sugar syrup to the chestnuts and knead it well. Beat the cream with the confectioner’s sugar and crush the chestnut cream using a potato ricer. Put some chestnut cream on the bottom of a glass, then top it with some whipped cream (you can use a pastry bag) and then continue alternately adding layers of chestnut and cream until your glass is filled up. If you want to prepare this dessert beforehand, you can freeze the chestnut cream, and take it out from the freezer 10 minutes before serving. Instead of using a potato ricer, grate it with a fine cheese grater.