Cornbread with Chilies and Spring Onions

cornbread

Cornbread ranks highly on my list of comfort foods. A current staple at any outdoor feast and a hit at our recent July 4th Supper Club, many iterations have featured at meals over the years.

My cornbread hall of fame ranges far and wide. From the infamous Moosewood cookbook recipe made regularly in our house during the vegetarian era of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s to accompany chili sin carne, to the cheesy jalapeño versions consumed in mass quantity while gallivanting around the States in my University days, to the many versions discovered in bread baskets in every region of the Mediterranean while vacationing in the sun.

Table set for our July 4th Supper Club. Photo: Nikos Tsogkas

Without a doubt, the golden squares available at the Ottollenghi establishments dotted around London wins the prize as the most memorable cornbread to land on my plate. Theirs will forever remind me of the surprise 60th birthday party they catered for my mother when I was a blossoming 800 weeks pregnant with G3. Itamar (then head chef at the Notting Hill outpost, now of Honey and Co fame) took charge of the entire shebang with calm and ease despite my obsessive menu consultations discussed with with true hormonal zeal.

Nine years later, that cornbread is the only dish I can remember consuming with gusto while watching Itamar grow whiter over the course of the evening in absolute fear that I may possibly deliver the baby right there and then on the kitchen floor. Their cornbread scattered with aromatics is one of the few recipes they keep under lock and key.  The Nopi cookbook has a sweet version, which while more-ish lacks the punch of the savoury version available in the various Ottolenghi establishments.

cornbread

July 4th Supper Club in full swing. Photo: Nikos Tsogkas

I have tried various different permutations over the years testing ratios of cornmeal to flour to liquids, returning to the challenge last month in preparation for our July 4th Supper Club, and the guests left us barely any leftovers.  I borrowed the addition of aromatics from the 60th Birthday Party cornbread. And here is the result.

The best bit? It is baked in the oven before you even put on the BBQ coals.

cornbread

Cornbread with Chilies and Spring Onions

Inspired by the cornbread available at all Ottolenghi eateries.

Notes:
Feel free to add a good handful of grated cheddar for full on Americana (although I prefer it without).
If you want to make this dairy free, replace the melted butter with olive oil and the buttermilk with one 400ml can coconut milk stirred together with the juice of 1 lime.

1 tbsp olive oil
100g (1/2 cup) fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 red chilli
3 spring onions
115g (1 cup) plain flour
150g cornmeal or polenta (not quick cooking)
50g (1/4 cup) sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 eggs
2 tbsp melted butter
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 190C (375F)
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan or skillet on a medium to high heat and add the corn. If you are using frozen corn you can add it to the pan straight from the freezer. Heat the corn until it starts to brown all over (it will pop a little).
Meanwhile, slice the chilli and spring onion into thin rounds.
When the corn starts to brown all over add the aromatics to the pan and keep cooking for another minute or two until they release their scent and start to cook. Take off the heat and put to one side while you make the cornbread.
Pour 1 tbsp olive oil into a 20cm (8 inch) caste iron skillet or other oven proof pan or cake tin, and pour the oil around to line the base and sides. Place in the oven to heat while you mix the ingredients.
In a medium sized bowl combine the flour, cornmeal or polenta, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
Mix together the eggs, buttermilk (or coconut milk and lime) and melted butter (or olive oil).
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients and stir well to combine.
Add 3/4 of the corn/chilli/spring onion mixture and stir through until evenly distributed.
Carefully remove your skillet from the oven and pour in the cornbread mixture. Sprinkle the remaining corn mixture over the top of the batter and quickly return the pan to the oven.
Cook for 18-20 minutes until lightly golden on top and the centre is just cooked through. Careful not to overcook or it will dry out.

Serve warm or room temperature. Cornbread is best eaten the day it is made, but also makes a delicious snack toasted the following day with lashings of butter.

Enjoy!

cornbread

Moosewood cornbread days in the vegetarian household

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BF Bites June Roundup

The Dusty Knuckle Bakery

BF bites 6.17

This year I found bread heaven in an old shipping container at the end of an alley in East London. Yes, a shipping container. Beautified with flowers and a dream logo, The Dusty Knuckle Bakery  arguably produces some of the best bread in London:  delicious focaccia, tangy sourdough with an enviable crust,the most delicious potato bread and outstanding caramelised apple pastries. I admit that I have traveled across town just to buy their goods. While I am thrilled that the Dusty Knuckle is moving to larger premises to expand operations I will miss the shipping container garden bringing colour to an otherwise grey corner of London.

 

Harrington and Squires

BF bites 6.17

Photo: Harrington & Squires

I have an entire (rather large) drawer dedicated to greetings cards. Some I just keep to remind me of a place or a time or because the quote on the front resonates, and others are there just waiting for that special someone’s birthday or celebration. I have recently discovered that there is an even bigger thrill in seeing stationery printed in the flesh, and best of all, designing your own. Through our Supper Clubs I have been introduced to the wonderful Harrington and Squires. The 1.2m wide perfectly designed shop/studio/teaching space over three floors produces hand letterpressed greetings cards, invitations, calendars, books, stationery……the list goes on. And the best bit? The workshops.. Harrington and Squires are the secret behind our beautiful menus, designed by Jeremy and printed with Chrissie and Vicky in their shop. Check them out. The perfect excuse for more stationery.

 

The Perfect Scoop

Last month I talked about my ice cream maker. This month I am revealing my secret weapon behind the gallons of ice cream I produce all summer long. David Lebovitz, ex Chez Panisse pastry chef, and godfather of the food blogging world is, among many things, an ice cream maven. And has written what I consider to be the best and ultimate ice cream book. If you only ever own one ice cream book, this is the one.

 

Rude Health Smoothie Oats

BF bites 6.17

morning smoothies made so much better with Rude Health Smoothie Oats

Smoothies became a breakfast staple about 8 years ago when my friend Kim introduced me to beauty of the all in one breakfast. Little did she know that she would be changing my life and bringing great ease to my mornings of breakfast chaos. You see, no one in my house really likes the same thing pre 9am and the role of short order cook is definitely not in my remit. Smoothies for breakfast provide a perfect solution. They are quick, make no mess, and can be packed full of goodness while maintaining the required level of sweet to satiate the younger palates. And these Smoothie Oats are simply jumbo oats, milled thinly enough so that they dissolve when added to smoothies, providing all the nutritional goodness with none of the porridge stirring or hot cereal rejection. And it gives me great comfort to think we all start the day on the right track. Even if it all goes down hill after breakfast.

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Labeneh – It’s not as Hard as it Looks

One of my personal triumphs of this year so far is mastering labeneh. If I am being truly honest, it was more a realisation that things are not always as hard as they seem than an actual triumph. In reality, labeneh is embarrassingly easy to make.

I should explain: labeneh is strained salted yoghurt that you hang in a cheesecloth overnight rendering a thick, creamy and totally delicious dip, eaten alone or alongside cooked or raw vegetables, with cool watermelon or strawberries in the summer, on crackers or toast, in a sandwich……in fact with everything. I eat it with salad and eggs for breakfast, with grilled vegetables and fish or my favourite way as a little snack with some lavosh crackers or radishes. And, being a dish originating from the Middle East, there are as many varieties as there are regions.

labeneh

ready for the overnight hang

Assuming it was too much of a faff to make at home and finding the shop bought version generally disappointing, labeneh was relegated to that special place in my culinary heart as consumed only on holidays in the Med or Israel or at any of my favourite Middle Eastern hangouts now on my doorstep in London. But in this year of overcoming fears and challenging myself, I accepted the task of tackling what turns out to be an extremely simple delicacy to execute. The result: labeneh is now an unexpected and greatly appreciated notch on my cooking belt, and a fridge staple.

labeneh

the great unveiling

I should add here, the testing process was quite extensive. After gathering many opinions from those I know, and asking those I don’t know on Instagram for their favourite labeneh recipe, I made versions with Greek yoghurt, plain yoghurt, goat’s milk yoghurt and sheep’s milk yoghurt, and with combinations of up to two at a time trying to achieve the ultimate condiment of my dreams. Each variety has a slightly different flavour and consistency, but the sheep’s milk version won my vote overall as it has a milder flavour and the perfect texture.

Give it a try. It’s really not as hard as it looks.

labeneh

 

Labeneh

While sheep’s milk yoghurt is my favourite base for labeneh, a 50/50 goats milk Greek yoghurt mix is a close second place, but feel free to make this with your favourite yoghurt of choice. Just make sure it is not set or low fat.

500g sheep’s milk yoghurt (or any other yoghurt of choice)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt

Stir together all the ingredients in a medium sized bowl.
Drape a large (approximately 40cm/16inch) square of doubled cheesecloth or muslin over a sieve in the sink and pour the yoghurt mixture into the middle.
Bring together the sides of the cloth and tie together to make a cute bundle.
Hang the bundle overnight. I hang mine from my kitchen tap and let it drain into the sink, but you can hang it by tying it over the handle of a wooden spoon balanced over a mixing bowl.
I leave the mixture out overnight and then transfer to a colander sitting over a bowl and place in the fridge for another few hours to chill. I like to give it 24 hours hanging time total.
Some people hang theirs in the fridge for the full 24 hours. Either works, although I prefer the flavour when left out overnight before going in the fridge.
If you like a dip (my personal favourite), open up the cloth after 24 hours and scrape the thickened mixture either in to an airtight container and leave in the fridge ready to use any time for up to a week.
You can leave it hanging for a few days in the fridge, giving you a stiffer mixture perfect for rolling into balls for a salad or a buffet selection.
Alternatively, transfer to a shallow bowl or plate, drizzle with a good slug of olive oil and any toping of your choice, and dip or spread away.

Optional toppings:
good drizzle of olive oil
zatar
nigella seeds
chilli flakes
fresh herbs – chopped dill, coriander, parsley
pickled shallots

pomegranate seeds

labeneh

lavosh crackers – the pefect dipping tool. photo: Jeremy Coleman

Enjoy!

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