Rachael of pizzarossa was our August 2012 Daring Cook hostess and she challenged us to broaden our knowledge of cornmeal! Rachael provided us with some amazing recipes and encouraged us to hunt down other cornmeal recipes that we’d never tried before – opening our eyes to literally 100s of cuisines and 1000s of new-to-us recipes!
Being from the southern U.S. my first thought was what have I not put cornmeal in? However, Rachael has really found recipes from everywhere. Some recipes I cruised past, been there, done that, but others opened my eyes. I’ve missed a thing or two about cornmeal and this really showed me:
Nsima with Ndiwo
This recipe is very slightly adapted fromhttp://www.friendsofmalawi.org/learn_about_malawi/volunteer_life/recipes…. I made double the quantity of nsima given here, but it was far too much for us. The traditional way to eat nsima is to break pieces off the “patty”, roll it into a ball and form a depression with your thumb which you then use as a scoop to eat the accompanying stew. Hubby and I cheated a bit and just ate lumps of nsima and scooped the stew up with a spoon. It was absolutely delicious!
Time: 5 minutes prep, 10 – 15 minutes cooking
Equipment: 2 saucepans, measuring cups, spoons
1 cup (240 ml) (170 gm) (6 oz) cornmeal
2½ cups (600 ml) water
Put water in a medium saucepan and heat. Just before it comes to a boil, gradually stir in half the cornmeal until smooth. When it starts bubbling, reduce heat to low and gradually stir in the remaining cornmeal. Cover the pot and turn off heat. Leave to sit for 5 to 10 minutes, undisturbed.
When ready to serve, use a large spoon, wet it and scoop the nsima into burger-sized patties onto plates. Serve immediately.
Ndiwo is a simple soup made with greens. Rachael used cabbage, onion, oil, tomato, salt and pepper with a enough water for her soup. I used zucchini, onion, tomato, spices and no water. The zucchini has lots of moisture already so it wasn’t soup but maybe a vegetable stew.
The Nsima is outstanding! It’s so simple, cornmeal and water but it’s so good I couldn’t believe it’s something our southern culture who pride ourselves in the use of cornmeal have missed. I have a new love and certainly a new addition to my quick, easy, delicious and healthy menu. It uses no oils, eggs, milk, only cornmeal and water. I was simply shocked at how good it was.
As it turns out, I thought I would miss the challenge this month. I’ve been in a bad flare of my RA and just have not felt like making an effort. When I’m in a flare I’m not even interested in eating. One night, I went to make something to eat, but nothing sounded good. I thought about making cornbread because it was so fast and easy but I knew I had vegetables that would be going bad if they weren’t used. I got out the vegetables but still they didn’t seem appealing. Then it hit me. I made cornbread as I always do, cut up the yellow squash and stirred it into the batter.
The challenge was to use cornmeal in something never tried before but as it turns out, because of the challenge, I added something I never would have considered before. The result was wonderful and wouldn’t have happened if not for Rachael’s challenge.
Earlier in the month, I had posted the directions for making cornbread from scratch without measuring:
Quick pour or two of oil. (it used to be bacon fat) A pour depends on how much you are making, a big pan or small, and the cook should use within their comfort level for fats per serving. I use canola oil, it’s probably about 1/4 cup for an 8″ cast iron skillet.
Buttermilk, I pour enough for my recipe. It’s probably about a cup for my usual 8″ round. As you will see, the way the batter comes together, these amounts self-adjust so don’t stress over them.
Mix all the wet ingredients and blend well.
I use self-rising yellow cornmeal mix. I can’t tell a difference in taste from mixing flour and leavening but I can tell a difference in consistent results.
Start with a regular coffee cup or small plastic container and begin mixing using either a wire whisk or mixer. Watch your batter not your ingredient. Begin with about 1/2 of your cup, and continue to blend in cornmeal mixture in about 1/4 cup increments until you see the consistency of a thick pudding that’s ready to set.
Instant or cooked, pudding has a consistency when beaten that looks the same. Watch closely. The batter will make a glop sound as compared with a lup-lup sound when contacting the sides of the bowl. Remember this IS a batter and has to stay easily stir and pour-able.
I know, rocket science is difficult to understand but you’ll get it when you see and hear it After you have mixed the batter a couple of times, the process takes less than 5 minutes from start to oven.
While you were mixing your batter, you had the deep sided pan or skillet on the stove with a pour or two of oil in it, set on low to medium heat. Again if you are fat conscious, use less but you want to have enough oil to swirl around nicely. (I didn’t promise low-cal with this one). When your batter is gloppy, the consistency of thickening pudding, pour it quickly into the medium (not splattery) hot oil. As it pours, the edges will sizzle and form a crust. Pop it into the oven and bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until a knife stuck into the middle comes clean.
Troubleshooting: Batter to thin – the bread will be fine, only flatter.
Batter to thick – will need longer cooking times, if you suspect you have gone overboard with dry ingredients, add a bit more buttermilk. Better batter too thin than to thick.
Too much batter – get out another pan and bake for leftovers, it re-heats nicely and you can freeze for cornbread stuffing later.
Yellow Squash Cornbread
To the usual cornbread recipe I added two medium chopped yellow squash to the batter and poured into the hot oil then added a couple of chopped tomatoes to the top. I used a lower heat, 325 F degrees for about 40 minutes to allow time for the squash to cook.
The bread was so moist it was difficult even after cooling to get it to stay solid enough for a good picture and it was so yummy! I went back for seconds which is saying something considering how I was feeling.
I’ve made cornbread before adding canned or frozen corn, chilies, spices, onions, cheese and other foods for different flavors but this changes the entire texture of the bread making it moist, and heavier. I used two medium yellow squash but see no reason zucchini couldn’t be used.
I have to say though, after the discovery of nsima, if I do any experimentation in the near future it will be with trying that using different food combinations. It is really to good to miss.
Thank you Rachael, for this wonderful challenge.