On a recent visit to one of my suppliers (Hootons Homegrown on Anglesey) I was pleasantly surprised to discover sweet corn on the shelves. Not just that, but locally grown sweet corn fresh from their farm. Of course I couldn’t resist; we all love fresh sweet corn, so I picked up four.
My only concern at this time of year was that they might lack sweetness and tenderness. It’s not been the hottest or sunniest summer so rather than risk disappointment I chose to cook them in a African (ish) inspired sauce of creamy coconut milk, roasted spices, fresh ginger, peanut to give a bit of texture and crunch, a little chilli for heat and some fresh coriander. I’m sure it would make a great side dish for grilled meat but we had a vegetarian supper so I paired it with some stir fried spiced eggplant and a sort of Jollof rice (no chicken in this version).
For the coconutty corn cobs you will need:
4 fresh corn cobs cut in half, or thirds if they are large, 1 large tablespoon of groundnut oil, 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds, 1 finely chopped red chilli (or a good pinch of chilli flakes), 500g fresh tomatoes, skinned and roughly chopped or 1 tin of tomatoes, half a 400g can of coconut milk, 100g of coarsely ground peanuts, a knob of peeled and grated ginger, seasoning
Heat the oil in a large saucepan then add the cumin and mustard seeds. Roast lightly until their aroma fills the kitchen, but do not burn them as they will taste bitter. Add the corn cobs coating well with oil and spices. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk, chilli and ginger.
Put a lid on the pan and allow to simmer gently for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring now and then. Add a little salt and a bit more coconut milk if the sauce seems dry.
Serve sprinkled with a finely chopped handful of fresh coriander.
Sort of Jollof rice:
1 tablespoon sunflower oil, 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper de-seeded and thinly sliced, 1 sliced onion, 2 bay leaves, 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped, a pinch or two of chilli flakes, 3 fresh tomatoes skinned and chopped, 2 tablespoons tomato puree, sprig of fresh thyme, 400g basmati rice, 600ml of chicken or vegetable stock
In a large saucepan sweat the sliced onions and peppers gently in the sunflower oil for about 10 minutes or beginning to soften but not turn brown.
Add garlic, chilli flakes, bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes and tomato puree. Stir for a minute or so, then add the hot stock. Allow to simmer gently for about 15 minutes.
In the meantime wash the rice a couple of times to remove some of the starch, but there’s no need to soak it really.
After the sauce has simmered for its 15 minutes add the rice. Put a tight-fitting lid on the pan (or cover with foil then a lid so no steam escapes), turn the heat down low and cook for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the rice is tender and cooked.
**NB: There are several methods for cooking rice. I usually favour the Caribbean way (learnt from my Trinidadian step-father). He brings a large pan of plenty of water to the boil, tips in the rice and simmer until cooked, as you would if you were cooking pasta. No pre washing or rinsing is necessary and it always works for me. Some would argue that only brown rice warrants cooking in this way but I use all kinds; You just have to stay on the ball because if you over boil it you end up with mush.
In the African method used in this recipe I have added basmati rice to the sauce, placed a lid on top and left it to cook slowly until the liquid has been absorbed. The result is a stickier dish, but perfect when combining sauce and rice.
There is one other approach. The oven method often favoured in Indian cooking, where rice is to all intents and purposes baked. This produces a dryer textured dish, such as pilau rice.