If it’s September then it must be…Sweetcorn

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I’ve been sitting on this post for most of the last month meaning to sort some photos out…and now I’ve almost run out of the month so here it is anyway…

Memory 1  1994

It’s November and for once I have done my Christmas shopping early. There is a chill in the air and mist over the back garden and I am looking through Real Good Food by Nigel Slater which I have bought for my brother for Christmas.

My interest is caught by the chapter on barbeques and I am captivated and transported from this chilly midlands morning to a summer evening in a garden in London by Nigel’s description of how he uses a flowerpot filled with stones, charcoal and the rack from his grill to barbecue on… then follows a description of his way of soaking the sweetcorn and then placing the cob still covered by the husk on the rack and roasting it slowly over hot coals…eaten blistering hot with chilli flavoured butter…

Memory 2  1990 ?

I am watching a rerun of MASH and Colonel  Sherman Potter (photo from the monster mash wiki)

Sherman potter

is explaining how when he gets home he is going to go outside into one of the fields surrounding his house,  “Well, I like fresh corn. I mean real fresh corn. So I think maybe I’ll just take a hot plate out to the garden, make a pot of boiling water, then I won’t even pick that corn – I’ll bend that stalk till the ear dips into the water, and I’ll eat it right there standing up. Scrumptious! ”    

Doesn’t that just make you want to grow some so you can do it yourself ?

Memory 3 1976 or 1977

Hong Kong. Two travel weary parents take their children out into the streets of Wan Chai  (these days its quite a smart area full of hotels and conference centres, back then it was ah… interesting !) looking for somewhere to eat… although these children have been brought up to eat what is put in front of them, the parents are somewhat nervous, remember Chinese food was not as popular in the UK as it is today, and these 2 children, despite the culinary adventures of the parents still have very  british palettes.

As it turned out the place that the family eventually walked into started the set menu off with a bowl of soup, a bowl of chicken soup on top of which was a yellow sea of sweetcorn…and in this backstreet Hong Kong restaurant started a love affair which has lasted over 37 years.

For many years if asked what my favourite food was I would say without hesitation “chicken and sweetcorn soup”… and fortunately my Mum usually had a batch in  the freezer…and although it was not the soup of my memory it was usually pretty damn good…

Is it good for you ?

Well it’s a vegetable and like a lot of vegetables mainly water with just under 20% of it’s weight being carbohydrate (3% sugar), with about 3g out of 100g accounting for dietary fibre, 3g protein and a further 1g or so counting as fat. From a vitamin point of view it has some vitamin B, some vitamin c

A discussion about what technology has done to it and where it might appear as  a product in other food stuffs is probably one for another day but on balance I would say that on its own it can’t hurt you…and most areas of the world seem to have developed ways of eating it in combination with other things (beans) in order to get a balanced diet…

How you cook it and what you serve it up with is a different matter…I, like a lot of children no doubt,  grew up being served boiled sweetcorn slathered in butter…and given the choice that is usually how I do serve it up if there is no chicken in the house !

What goes with it ?

Most soup recipes (other than chicken) seem to involve sweet potatoes and chili…or they go down the chowder route…there are a large number of recipes involving mixing them with egg and either as a pancake, omlette or fritter or a corn custard. Salads tend to involve adding them to mayonnaise.

More interesting recipes I have seen of late involve adding them to Turkey Meatballs (Ottolenghi) and in Plenty More they get served up with miso, I quite like adding a squeeze of lime juice over my freshly boiled corn if I am trying to avoid the butter

So how did you serve it this time ?

Having fallen in love with Nigel’s prose almost 20 years ago I had planned to grill it over charcoal but because of a busy month my corn wasn’t looking too good as we approached the end of the month so soup it was…one of the many sweet potato/red pepper/chilli combos but Tesco’s failed to provide me with a sweet potato… I did have a fridge full of slightly less than impressive vegetables (carrots, peas, a leek)…and there was left over chicken in the freezer so… yep, chicken and sweetcorn soup it was…

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September means Sweetcorn

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I have had a love affair with sweetcorn for a long long time. At the age of 7 if asked, I would answer that my favourite food was chicken and sweetcorn soup, but  I think it was probably the sweetcorn part that made the difference.

 One of my first cookbooks was Real Good Food:Nigel Slater and I remember reading again and again his description of how he barbecued sweetcorn on a BBQ made from an old flowerpot filled with pebbles and charcoal and then served with lashings of chilli butter…I longed to  have my own house and garden so that I could do this too…20 years on and I have had BBQ sweetcorn on many occasions but from much more unromantic “disposable grills”…but still as September comes round my stomach starts to rumble as I see the “Sweetcorn for sale” signs on the farm gates around Warwickshire…

 It is also one of the few vegetables that I can get Spider to eat without fuss which is why if a couple of cobs of sweetcorn appear in the weekly veg box, they usually end up heading his way instead of mine…but, because Husband, doesn’t eat it, it is not something that I generally end up buying…not even tinned.

 I have accidentally scored a tin of sweetcorn this week. Due to Spider absent mindedly leaving his bag in Husband’s car on Thursday night, the tin my Mum had put in his bag for the Harvest Festival on Friday (because  it’s a safe bet I would have forgotten) is now mine, Spider having taken a tin of mushroom soup  (schools prefer tinned food these days apparently – gone are the days of taking one of your Dad’s supersized marrows in)…

 Much as I adore the flavour of a freshly cooked sweetcorn…it is admittedly at it’s best just as you have picked it  (does anyone remember the bit in M*A*S*H where Sherman Potter is explaining how he will take a cooker and a pot of water out into the field and bend the stalk of corn over until the cob (still attached to the plant) meets the water)…and the chances of getting sweetcorn that fresh is slim… Almost as soon as it is picked the sugar starts turning to starch…

 Nutritionally Speaking

Sugar ? Starch ? Yes, that’s right Sweetcorn is a carbohydrate…as are most vegetables…however Sweetcorn does have quite a lot of good things going for it…for a start it is supposed to be high in anti oxidants and be good for eyesight… compared to an apple it has more vitamin C, more protein, slightly more carbohydrates (6% as compared to 4%) and slightly higher in dietary fibre. Also surprisingly, in that you can cook with corn oil, sweetcorn is relatively low in fat (1%, compared with an apple’s 0%) and those fats being mainly mono or poly unsaturated…

 The problem with sweetcorn tends to be what people do with it…slathering it with chilli butter is probably off the menu for me…but most of the other recipes I’ve looked at for inspiration are high in fats, oil or cream too…probably because the taste of sweetcorn is very delicate (most of its attraction being the crunch texture and the hit of sugar) so most people add flavours (and fat) to it…

So for the time being, as after all this is a tin of sweetcorn, I don’t HAVE to eat it now, I’ve parked it until I can think of something better to do with it than eating it raw in a salad…

photo to follow – still having camera issues