Daily Archives: November 11, 2010

A Winter Festival…

The feast day of ‘Sintmaarten’ (Saint Martin of Tours) is celebrated in the Netherlands on 11 November.

The rituals
In the dark winter evening, small groups of children, usually accompanied by an adult, go in small processions through the streets. They hold small lanterns made from paper or turnips on sticks in front of them as they knock on doors and sing songs or recite little poems in exchange for bags of candy and fruit, in a ritual somewhat reminiscent of Halloween.

A face is often carved into the turnip so the little candle placed inside shines through. If made of paper, this is usually decorated to look colourful and festive. The songs the children sing hint only vaguely at the origins of the feast day, often containing puzzling references or nonsense words.

The origins of the feast day have to do with its proximity to the middle of winter. The cows had been brought in from the fields and households had started up their stoves against the winter cold. The children celebrated the last remnants of the summer harvest with candlelit processions, during which the adults would give them nuts and candy as a final treat before the darkest days of winter.

About St Martin
St Martin was born in western Hungary, son of a Roman Army officer. St Martin also joined the army but was interested in christianity from an early age. The army took him all over Europe and the event which made him famous happened in Amiens, France.

The Saint was riding towards the city gates when he noticed an old beggar at the side of the road, shivering in the freezing cold. The Saint observed him for a while and saw that no-one stopped to help him. So he drew his sword and cut his own cloak in half, giving half to the beggar. He could not give him all of his cloak as military regulations required him to have this at all times. The following night in a dream, he saw Jesus Christ wearing one half of his cloak. This vision made him resolve to devote his life to Christ and he got baptised immediately.

He later established a small group of disciples in a remote cave, where he could pursue his vision of hermetic devotion to God. However, after a few years, the local bishop of Tours died and the locals all wanted Martin to be the new bishop. Ever the modest hermit, he tried to get out of it by fleeing the mob but was betrayed by some geese honking in the stable he was hiding in. Ever since, the traditional food to eat on St Martin’s day has been goose.

His pursuers found him and had him made bishop in spite of the objections of local clerics, who considered him little more than a beggar himself. He went on to become one of the most successful evangelists of the early church and is now the patron saint of France.

Eat The Season – Chestnut

Chestnut Soup

Makes 6 servings

Shopping List:

  • 1900 ml or 8 cups chicken stock
  • 680 gr or 1 1/2 pounds chestnuts, peeled
  • 160 gr or 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 sprigs fresh parsley
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 120 ml or 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 gr or 3/4 teaspoon white sugar
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste


  1. With a sharp knife, slice an ‘X’ across each chestnut. Place chestnuts in a single layer on a jelly roll pan.
  2. Pour 60 ml or 1/4 cup water into the pan. Bake in a preheated 230° C or 450° F oven for 10 minutes.
  3. When cool enough to handle, shell and peel.
  4. In a large saucepan combine the chicken stock, shelled chestnuts and chopped onions.
  5. Place the parsley sprigs, cloves and bay leaf in a spice bag and add to the chicken stock mixture.
  6. Simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes.
  7. Discard the spice bag and puree the chestnut mixture in a food processor or blender.
  8. Add the heavy cream, sugar and salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Return mixture to saucepan and gently heat through.
  10. To serve to with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, a bit of chopped parsley and some cooked chopped chestnuts just before serving.

Note: Good quality vegetable broth can be substituted for the chicken broth.


Amount Per Serving
Calories: 333
Total Fat: 9.7g
Cholesterol: 35mg
Sodium: 1539mg
Total Carbs: 56.4g
Dietary Fiber: 1g
Protein: 4.6g

PDF of this recipe: 11-2_Eat_The_Season_Chestnut