Pre­pare to be amaized

We all know it's de­li­cious gnawed from cob, but the earthy flavour of sweet­corn also goes per­fectly with seafood and spice

The Daily Telegraph - Saturday - - Food & Drink - Ste­vie Parle

I’ve al­ways been a huge sweet­corn fan. As a child there was no veg­etable I en­joyed more — munch­ing away rab­bit-style on the cob was about as fun as it got at din­ner time. I still love it served that way but, th­ese days, I of­ten add a lit­tle miso or soy to the but­ter for an ad­di­tional umami hit. It’s a hell of a com­bi­na­tion.

It was a rev­e­la­tion when I ac­tu­ally started cut­ting the corn off the cob at home. You lose that rus­tic gnaw­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but it’s sat­is­fy­ing to slice the ker­nels off your­self, and the recipe po­ten­tial is much more ex­cit­ing.

Sweet­corn is sur­pris­ingly ver­sa­tile. Once it is off the cob you can add it raw to sal­ads, chunky soups and stews, or sauté it in a pan with a lit­tle but­ter. It may look as if you’ve chucked a frankly quite dis­gust­ing tin of cooked sweet­corn into your salad, but you’ll know you haven’t – and the taste is fan­tas­tic.

Corn, just like fresh peas, does need to be fresh — the more time elapsed since its pick­ing, the tougher and less sweet it be­comes. Luck­ily it’s easy to tell the fresh cobs, es­pe­cially when still wrapped in their husks. Look for the soft green outer leaves – after a while, they be­come dry and pa­pery.

Th­ese recipes are a good start if cook­ing with corn in a se­ri­ous way is new to you. A sim­ple, de­li­cious corn­bread is al­ways wel­come at the ta­ble, par­tic­u­larly when served warm and coated in frankly too much but­ter. Sweet­corn and crab is a great com­bi­na­tion that has de­vel­oped a bad rep over the years. My ver­sion of the clas­sic Chi­nese soup is a far cry from the take­away ver­sion, though it keeps some of the silky in­ten­sity of the orig­i­nal.

Prawns, too, go well with sweet­corn; their earthy sweet­ness sits well with the saline equiv­a­lent in the prawns, and the spice seems to hold it to­gether. Th­ese pako­ras are a hit with adults and kids and a great base recipe to adapt your­self. Change the spice, ditch the prawns, add some fish – don’t feel you have to follow it too closely as it al­ways turns out well.

What are you wait­ing for? Just whip some corn off the cob and start cook­ing.

The recipes

Corn­bread muffins

Th­ese are best still warm or lightly grilled with but­ter. The ad­di­tion of pa­prika makes them won­der­fully smoky.

Makes 12

90g/3½oz melted but­ter,

20g/¾oz cold but­ter for fry­ing

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 large sweet­corn, ker­nels sliced off

1 red chilli, de­seeded and finely chopped

1 tsp smoked pa­prika

150g/5oz plain flour

150g/5oz fine po­lenta or corn­meal

2 tsp bak­ing pow­der

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp salt

60g/2 ½oz ched­dar, grated

2 eggs 300ml/10

½ fl oz but­ter­milk

100ml/3 ½ fl oz milk

Pre­heat oven to 200C/400F/gas 6. Pre­pare a 12-hole muf­fin tin with a lit­tle of the melted but­ter or ar­range 12 muf­fin cases in a small bak­ing tray.

Melt the 20g of but­ter in a small pan over a medium-low heat and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Fry gen­tly for 3 min­utes be­fore adding the sweet­corn, chilli and pa­prika and con­tin­u­ing to fry for another 5-8 min­utes un­til the corn is ten­der.

In a large mix­ing bowl, com­bine the flour, po­lenta, bak­ing pow­der, sugar, salt and ched­dar. Beat the eggs, then com­bine with the but­ter­milk and milk be­fore stir­ring into the dry in­gre­di­ents, fol­lowed by the 90g of melted but­ter and the fried sweet­corn. Spoon into the muf­fin tin or cases and place in the oven for 20-25 min­utes un­til they are golden and cooked through. As with cake, you can check that they are cooked by in­sert­ing a skewer – if it comes out clean they’re cooked. Eat warm for break­fast with crispy ba­con and maple syrup.

Prawn and sweet­corn pako­ras

Makes ap­prox 12

2 medium sweet­corns, ker­nels sliced off

1 onion, very finely chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

2cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

A hand­ful of fresh curry leaves

½ tsp turmeric

A pinch of chilli pow­der

½ tsp freshly ground black pep­per

1 tsp fen­nel seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt

Ap­prox 125g/4 ½oz gram flour

Ap­prox 3 tbsp sparkling wa­ter

12 small raw prawns, peeled

Veg­etable oil, for fry­ing

Yo­gurt and tamarind purée, to serve (op­tional)

Co­rian­der leaves, to dec­o­rate

Lime, to serve

Bring a pan of salted wa­ter to the boil and cook the sweet­corn ker­nels un­til just ten­der, about 2 min­utes. Drain, leave to cool, then place in a bowl.

Add all the other in­gre­di­ents ex­cept for the prawns, flour, wa­ter and oil. Mix well, then grad­u­ally start adding the flour, a hand­ful at a time, fol­lowed by a ta­ble­spoon of wa­ter, and mix. Keep adding the flour and wa­ter un­til the mix­ture comes to­gether and holds its shape when you press a hand­ful of it to­gether. You may not need all the flour.

With wet hands, take a heaped ta­ble­spoon­ful of the mix­ture and shape it in a ball around the prawn. Place the balls on a piece of grease­proof pa­per while you heat the oil.

Half-fill a heavy-based pan with oil and put over a medium heat (I some­times use a wok as it heats up beau­ti­fully and it’s easy to see what’s go­ing on). Test the heat of the oil with a chunk of bread; when the bread siz­zles and gen­tly turns golden in 30 seconds, the oil is hot enough. Care­fully drop the pako­ras into the oil and fry for 2-3 min­utes un­til golden and cooked. (You may have to do this in batches.)

Re­move with a slot­ted spoon and drain on kitchen pa­per be­fore serv­ing hot, sprin­kled with sea salt and co­rian­der leaves. De­li­cious served with yo­gurt and tamarind purée or In­dian pick­les and chut­neys.

Sweet­corn and crab soup with chilli oil

This is my sim­pler, fresher ver­sion of that Chi­nese dish we all know and

love. You can al­ways use left­over shred­ded chicken if you are un­able to get your hands on crab.

Serves 6

Chilli oil

½ tsp dried chilli flakes

3 tbsp mild olive oil

Soup

6 tbsp fish sauce

2 medium sweet­corns, ker­nels sliced off

4 tsp corn­flour

200g/7 oz white crab­meat

½ thumb of ginger, peeled and finely chopped

4 spring onions, finely sliced on the di­ag­o­nal

2 tbsp light soy sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

1 tbsp Shaox­ing or dry sherry

2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Make the chilli oil first. Place the dried chilli in a small pan and cover with the olive oil. Place over medium heat for a few min­utes and, just be­fore it comes to the boil, take off the heat and leave to in­fuse.

Bring 1.2 litres/2 pints of wa­ter to the boil and stir in the fish sauce and a big pinch of salt, fol­lowed by the ker­nels. Sim­mer gen­tly for 2 min­utes.

Mean­while, stir a few ta­ble­spoons of wa­ter into the corn­flour and pour into the soup as well, mix­ing un­til it is com­pletely com­bined. Con­tinue to sim­mer un­til the ker­nels are ten­der and the soup slightly thick­ened.

Stir in the crab­meat, ginger, spring onions, soy sauce, sesame oil and Shaox­ing and sea­son to taste.

Just be­fore serv­ing bring the soup up to a sim­mer and very slowly driz­zle in the egg white so it cre­ates long white strands in the soup. Sim­mer for a fur­ther minute, then trans­fer to bowls and spoon over a tea­spoon of chilli oil.

In cob we trust: clock­wise from above, prawn and sweet­corn pako­ras; corn­bread muffins; sweet­corn and crab soup with chilli oil

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