Posts

Blackened corn chowder with deep fried bacon

Blackened corn chowder & deep fried bacon

I adore sweetcorn in soup. I love those corn soups thickened with egg in Chinese restaurants and every year when the cobs are in season I make the divine chicken and sweetcorn soup from the first Leon cookbook, all sweet with corn and sticky with marinaded chicken. But this year I had branched out a bit and been using the first ears for salsa. I’d roasted them on the barbecue til smoky and tossed them with scallion and avocado and lots of lime and watched my dinner guests not scrap over the last spoonful.

Making the most of my glowing coals last weekend, I did some sweet potatoes on the embers and charred as much corn as I had in the house, setting it all aside for a less sunny day when I wanted the flavour of summer. It didn’t take long and by Wednesday I needed to be reminded it was August and turned my attention to the leftovers and immediately thought of a summer soup…

Bacon and corn are natural bedfellows, but I wanted this soup to be easily meat free if you baulk at battered bacon or don’t want to use chicken stock, so the bacon tops it and the stock can be vegetable based. I’d top it with avocado in this case and add some hot sauce to the soup.

Blackened corn chowder with battered bacon (serves two)

  • 2 ears sweetcorn
  • 2 orange fleshed sweet potatoes
  • 2 scallions
  • 200ml stock
  • 100 ml milk
  • 4 rashers of streaky bacon
  • 50g self raising flour
  • 50g rice flour (or all self raising if you don’t have rice flour)
  • 150ml ice cold sparkling water
  • pinch cayenne
  • milk to cover
  • oil for frying

First blacken your corn. The best way to do this is roast them over the barbecue, but you could parboil the ears and then pass through a gas flame or under a smoking hot grill until charred in places. Leave to cool until you can handle the corn and then strip the kernels off with a sharp knife.

If you are using vegetable stock, chop the ears in half and simmer in with your veg to make a super corn-infused stock for the soup.

While that’s doing, cut your bacon rashers in half across the way so you have twice the number of pieces and then cover them with a bit of milk. This will help the batter stick to the bacon and not just slide off in the hot oil.

Chop your scallion and sweat in a bit of oil. If the sweet potato is raw, chop it small and sweat too. Then add in the corn and just cover the veg with stock (you may need less than the amount stated) and simmer until everything is tender. Then take a third of the soup out and blend the remaining, adding the milk as you do. Add the chunky third back in and warm the soup gently.

Put your oil on to heat and make your batter by combining the two flours and the water and cayenne to make a thick, but not solid batter. The rice flour and sparkling water will make the batter very light and puffy, making sure the rashers cook quickly and without becoming shatteringly crisp. Lift the rashers out of the milk and into the batter and then into the oil. The batter puffs and spits slightly but a minute each side should do it. Drain on kitchen roll.

Serve bowls of warm soup with two rashers of bacon on top. The soup is sweet with the veg and the salty slightly spicy bacon cuts through it beautifully. Everything tastes so summery and the bacon is amazing. Cooked til tender enough to split the rasher with a spoon’s edge and crunchy with batter, you’ll want your bacon deep fried every time, not just when the sweetcorn is in season!

 

Sweet on corn…

It’s still theoretically summer and that means just one thing to me right now….fresh corn on the cob! I can’t get enough of those sweet juicy bursting kernels of sheer goodness in the past few weeks. And with tightly wrapped ears of corn a mere £1 for four at the farmers’ market last week, I can afford to indulge this lust with wild abandon.

I’ve been eating the corn straight from the cobs, lightly boiled and slathered in chili and butter, dripping down my hands and smeared over my face as I eat the barely cooled corn over the sink with glee. I’ve stripped the kernels from the cobs with a knife and added these yellow nuggets of joy to the classic Chilean stew of porotos granados to put my munchkin squash to good use. And I’ve made stock with the denuded cobs and warmed up these increasing autumnal evenings with the delicious chicken and sweetcorn soup from the Leon Cookbook. And yet I still can’t enough corn so when I stumbled across a recipe for double corn muffins, I just had to make them…

A Dan Lepard recipe from the Guardian Weekend magazine, this is an incredibly simple recipe which combines fresh corn kernels, cornmeal and grated courgette, making it perfect for anyone with a zucchini glut! I decided to leave the bacon out as I wasn’t sure if I was serving these to any vegetarians and replaced it with a scotch bonnet pepper for a bit of a tingle. Other than that I followed the recipe exactly.

And it is a particularly easy recipe to follow. A quick softening of the onion, pepper and corn while I measured out the dry ingredients, beat an egg and poured the wet ingredients in my beloved measuring cups, then stirred it all together in one large mixing bowl. No folding, no faffing and absolutely no chance of over working the flour because it all combined beautifully. I mixed up this chunky flavoursome batter and popped it in the fridge overnight, so I could make the muffins fresh on Sunday to take to accompany a fried chicken fest at a friend’s house.

In the morning I spooned one dessertspoon of the batter into a regular sized bun case. Obviously these are meant to be muffins, but I’ve run out of muffin cases and couldn’t be bothered going in search of some over the Bank Holiday weekend. I planned to reduce the cooking time slightly to balance up the smaller sized muffins, but since I’m not at my sharpest early on a Sunday without at least two cups of tea in me, I actually put the oven on at 180° instead of 200° and ended up having to leave them in for 15 minutes longer after turning the oven up a bit to get them both cooked and appetisingly golden brown.

The mini muffins came out looking rich, glossy and golden but the paper cases looked soaked in oil even though I think I might have undermeasured it, but definitely had a bit less courgette in there that might have helped soak it up. I left them to cool slightly on the advice of the recipe to firm up before sampling the smallest and least appealing looking of them just to make sure I wasn’t going to poison anyone!

They were pleasingly firm, breaking apart cleanly and without disintegrating into crumbs. They were deliciously moist and studded with chewy kernels of corn with a good kick from the scotch bonnet and tasted so intense I could have sworn there was a bit of mature cheddar in there too. And despite the marked cases, they weren’t at all oily on the tongue, remaining light and chewy.

While these were a good accompaniment to chicken and would be a good breakfast dish too, they didn’t really make the most of the corn as it ended up tasting suspiciously like tinned sweetcorn after I’d cooked it. In fact with the scotch bonnet added, it tasted a bit like that weird tinned corn with bits of peppers in which was not what I was expecting. They would have been better with the sharpness of cayenne instead of the fruitiness of scotch bonnets or chilli sauce to minimise the tinned feeling. I might even go crazy next time and add some cheddar or parmesan to oomph up the umami undertones they already have.

But if you ever find yourself with a forlorn tin of sweetcorn, a courgette that’s seen better days and 30 minutes to spare, you couldn’t do better than making a batch of these, preferably full sized, and serving one split in half with a fried egg on top for a top class store cupboard supper…