Autumn means it’s time for sweet fresh chestnuts and crisp white walnuts. These go with many seasonal delights including, new seasons apples, sweetcorn, pumpkin, tender pink ginger, purple garlic and on…. I adore chestnuts and don’t mind the work that they are when they are only around and at their best for a few weeks of the year. Picked now and kept in the bottom of the fridge, you will have six weeks to discover how many things they are good for. Fresh walnuts need to be spread out and sun dried; so they do not moulder and spoil. Slow cooked brown rice and chestnuts with walnuts is delicious and paired with some sticky roasted pumpkin, ginger, parsnip and garlic and lots of green beans it makes a fantastic, seasonal meal.

Yesterday, whilst India baked for a party, I sought an adventure of my own, it is best that a mother leaves her daughter alone when she is in charge of the kitchen. I headed 150k’s west to Kookootonga Nut Farm at Mount Irvine in the Blue Mountains. Here chestnuts and walnuts can be collected from beneath hundreds of their gorgeous trees and bought for a mere $8 a kilo, what a treat I thought. The weather could not have been more perfect and I had so much fun all morning foraging and taking in the beauty of the parklike setting while I gathered up shiny chestnuts and damp, heavy walnuts. Kookootonga is owned and operated by the two current generations of the Scrivener family; who have lived on this property since settlement at Mount Irvine in the 1890’s. Buckets and gloves are supplied, I wore a cloth pair but when next I visit I will be sure to take a thick leather pair; for protection from the chestnut spikes and the spiders there. My trip was rather more eventful than planned and involved a high speed ambulance ride to Lithgow Hospital! A female funnel web or perhaps trap door spider grabbed my index finger, left two red welts and gave me the fright of a lifetime. I have only the highest praise for the Scriveners and Mark and our kind and attentive emergency services. I give great thanks for the end result being a false alarm as apparently no poison was injected. All I suffered was a nasty case of shock and ambulance sickness. Today my heart ┬áhas returned to a more normal rate and all is well. This is a day I will truly ‘never’ forget, I will use it to remind myself of my great fortune and gratitude for life. Mark tells me this is the first ever such incident and so I think it safe to say do go, take a picnic, it’s a fabulous outing for all the family-with leather gloves on! Recipe to come…