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Upside-down Rhubarb Cheesecake

Some people have a spirit animal that sums up their personality and beliefs. We here at North/South Food have a spirit ingredient instead in the shape of rhubarb! Preferably the seasonal treat that is forced Rheum rhaponticum from the Rhubarb Triangle of Yorkshire with its perfect perky pink colouring and tangy taste, but ultimately any rhubarb pleases us profoundly. We’ll eat it any which we can and as often as possible!

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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…

Hot Cross Buns

Hot cross buns

I don’t particularly like raisins, but I absolutely love Hot Cross Buns with a passion. As Easter treats go, I would always choose a hot cross bun over an Easter egg. This is probably because I haven’t worked out a way to put butter on a chocolate egg yet…my eyes lit up when I saw Dan Lepard’s recent recipe in the Guardian for Spiced Stout Buns as these are a grown up hot cross bun.

Luscious hot cross buns slathered in butter

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