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Cornbread anyone for the chilly season?

Getting chilly? We bring you – Cornbread – all the way from South America. Having said that, winter brings to us Indians, the lovely ‘makke ke roti’ with ‘sarson ka saag’…What this is to us, the cornbread is to the Americans, especially the Americans from the South.  After a lot of research, reading through multiple recipes, I came across a few from amazing cooks from South America…nothing less would do in this instance, as even Mark Twain wrote in his autobiography that, ‘The North thinks it knows how to make cornbread, but this is gross superstition’, so, nothing less than a recipe from the South would do for our readers. So, here I am, with tricks and techniques we learnt while experimenting. Get your apron on and march straight to the kitchen!

Pure cornbread

There is lots of advise out there to make the best cornbread…I am told that the points to remember when making cornbread is:

  • get good quality cornmeal (‘makke-ka-atta’)
  • to ensure that the heavy cast iron skillet (pan) you use be smoking hot – remember, to add the butter to it too, before the cornbread batter is thrown in to the skillet (This is important as it makes the edges really, really brown and crusty). If you don’t have an iron pan, use a heavy bottom ceramic dish…’heavy’ is the keyword here
  • the original recipe calls for buttermilk (though, I used yoghurt and does turn out pretty good too – or make your own  buttermilk: recipe for making buttermilk is given at the end of this post)
  • and try not to mix wheat flour as that will give you a cake texture!
  • Purists do not add any form of sugar either but since the corneal you get in parts outside of Southern America is generally a different texture, adding honey, does work well, is what I find

Here is the recipe I would recommend for making a nice, crusty cornbread:

You will need:

  • 2 cups coarsely ground yellow cornmeal (‘makke-ka-atta‘)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 egg  at room temperature, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups  plain yogurt, at room temperature (can substitute an equal amount of  buttermilk)
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tbsp of milk

Now, get the process going:

  • Preheat your oven to 200 deg C. Grease a 12-inch cast iron skillet (preferably) or an 8-inch square or round pan, and place it in the oven with some butter added to it, just enough to grease the entire sides and the base (I didn’t have a cast iron skillet handy, so used an 8-inch pan). Ensure your pan is nice and hot before you add the batter!
  • In a large bowl, place the cornmeal, salt, baking soda and baking powder, and whisk to combine well
  • In separate bowl, mix the egg, butter, yogurt, milk and honey, and whisk well to combine well.
  • Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients.  Always add the wet to the dry! Always!! Mix until just combined. The mixture will be relatively thin, even thinner if you are using watery buttermilk (which is fine too).
  • Pour the mixture into the ready hot pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes ( 20 minutes or so is enough, if using a cast iron skillet), or until lightly golden brown on top (mine took just about 25 minutes), golden brown around the edges (which comes only if you add the batter to a really hot pan), and the traditional test of inserting a toothpick in the centre comes out clean.
Bean soup with cornbread - perfect for this chilly day
Bean soup with cornbread – perfect for this chilly day

Slice and serve immediately. Some cooks like adding a mixture of freshly melted butter with honey on the top before serving – Whether you add butter-honey mixture or not, enjoy with a bowl of hot, steaming soup, stew or even a salad. I am having this with a nice bowl of bean and tomato soup (actually, tastes amazing with a bowl of rajma too – call it the bean, onion and tomato soup!) while several others in the family chose to have it with salad! Whichever way you choose to have it, I am sure you will enjoy it!

Very greedy for cornbread - make sure everyone has got a slice!
Very greedy for cornbread – make sure everyone has got a slice!

All done? Now, relax and enjoy your meal with your family! Thank you Nicole for the inspiration.

Shilpa xx


How to make buttermilk at home

There are several ways to make your buttermilk at home. Here are some fairly straightforward methods:

  1. Lemon Juice
    Pour 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into a liquid measuring cup. Add milk to reach the 1 cup mark. Allow the mixture to sit at room temperature for 5-10 minutes.
  2. White Vinegar
    Pour 1 tablespoon of white vinegar into a liquid measuring cup. Add milk to reach the 1 cup mark. Allow the mixture to stand for 5 minutes, then stir and use in a recipe.
  3. Plain Yogurt
    In a liquid measuring cup, mix together two tablespoons of milk with enough plain yogurt to yield one cup. Use as buttermilk.

Cover: Serious Eats

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