Corn is one of nature's gifts, wrapped and ready to enjoy. I love peeling back the tasselled husks to discover rows of golden yellow and white pearl-like kernels that prove to be every bit as sweet, tender and succulent as they look.
Writing about these tasty morsels reminds me of one of my trips to Hungary, where corn is a staple food and the picturesque countryside is dappled with shades of gold given off by fields of maize, sunflowers and wheat. After taking a car ferry from Tihany to Szantod one summer afternoon, we stopped for a picnic and dip at Lake Balaton—the country’s most popular tourist attraction and the biggest lake in central and western Europe. Dressed in swimmers and towels, we were munching on wedges of melon when a man rode up on a bicycle that was not unlike a remnant from the second World War. A plastic basket lined with foil and striped tea towels was firmly strapped to the old bike, and the vessel was filled with freshly cooked cobs of corn! Though sufficiently full from the lush watermelon, we found the corn irresistible—and ate with real gusto, to the delight of the gypsy pedlar, or should I say, peddler (pictured below).
Young corn in cream is a popular Hungarian dish—though I dare say the recipe is too rich for my tastes. According to George Lang in The Cuisine of Hungary (Penguin), corn in cream usually served as a vegetable accompaniment for fried chicken.
One of the simplest and most delicious ways to prepare young corn is to remove and discard the husks and silks, trim the stem ends and simmer the cobs for 8-10 minutes in a saucepan of water. To barbecue corn, peel back the husk then remove the silk. Wrap the corn in its husks, secure with string and soak in cold water for a minute. Place the corn onto a medium-heat barbecue grill. Cook for 6-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until the kernels are tender. Make up a seasoned butter with fresh chopped chilli, sea salt and ground pepper and spread it over the corn.
Use fresh corn kernels in pancakes, salsa and fritters. To remove kernels from cob simply hold the husked and de-silked cob upright with tip pointing down, then slice downwards cutting as close to the corn as possible.
SWEET CORN CHOWDER
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 brown onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
2 large cobs sweet corn, husks and silks removed, washed
4 cups vegetable stock (see below*)
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup full cream milk
fresh chives for garnish, chopped
Place corn cobs into a saucepan of water. Cover, bring to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes. Remove the corn and allow to cool slightly. *Reserve 4 cups of the corn water for use as stock (add a vegetable stock cube to this). Using a small, sharp vegetable knife, slice the niblets off the cobs. Set aside.
Heat the butter or margarine in a stockpot or large saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes until soft and golden. Add the potatoes and stock. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the corn niblets and simmer for a further 10 minutes or until corn is tender.
Allow soup to cool and puree in a blender or kitchen whiz until smooth and creamy. Return to the pan, stir in the milk and season to taste with salt and pepper. Reheat gently and serve in deep bowls, garnished with the chives. This recipe will feed 2-4, depending on individual appetites.