When I was little once a year the whole neighbourhood came together for a large jointly barbecue. For me it felt like a big annual dinner party! I remember one neighbour being responsible for the fire, another for hiring the barbecues and yet another for buying the meat. The women made sensational salads, the baker baked twenty additional French breads that day and the children were rejoicing the expected dessert: bananas with dark chocolate, carefully wrapped in tinfoil which you could unpack on your plate and eat with a little bit of ice cream. I preferred to hang about the barbecues. At eye level red meat transformed in brown with black grill streaks. I loved to be a part of the grown up talks. My mother always made her famous Belgian endive/chicory salad and my brother and sisters and I helped wrapping the bananas. The only one never looking forward to the annual party was my dad. He didn’t like the waiting and the long dining at all. I can remember a few elder girls had grilled corncobs one time. I remember them sitting on the side of the sandpit, picking and enjoying the golden grains. I was completely jealous of course but I didn’t let it show. And because I didn’t want to let my mother down I bravely scooped up another spoon of Belgian endive salad. I presume I asked my mother for corncobs after that but I can’t remember ever eating them. Last weekend I had two corncobs on my kitchen counter for the first time and suddenly I was standing by that sandpit again. I couldn’t help smiling and I thought: these ones are just for me!
Corn or maize is a type of grass. 9000 years ago it was cultivated by the Olmecs and Mayas in Central America for the first time. From the plains of the Tehuacan valley the cultivation of corn spread throughout the Americas. After Columbus discovered the New World corn became well known in the Old World through the Columbian Exchange. Not because of its appetizing yellow grains but mainly because of its easy adjustment to all sorts of climates – in contrast to the buckwheat seeds from my last post. Nowadays we not only eat corn, we also use it for biofuel, and we feed it to livestock. It’s actually kind of strange how much farmland we use to grow corn to feed livestock instead of using the farmland to feed ourselves directly. If you want to know more you can watch the BBC2 Horizon documentary Should I Eat Meat. When we do use corn in our kitchens instead of our stables we use it for wraps, tacos, and tortillas as well as for American Bourbon whiskey. Corn starch helps to set sauces and corn oil you could compare with oils like rapeseed oil and sunflower oil. But I’m afraid popcorn and cornflakes are the most famous corn products…
I often hear vegans and vegetarians complain about the barbecue season: too much meat and too little other dishes and veggies. Seriously, these are first world problems and they go beyond me! The beauty of being asked to join some lovely people around their fire and to join their meal is very precious to me. And really, the only thing you have to do is bring some of your own food, food you like to eat and is suitable for a barbecue. Well, that isn’t too hard to ask when you have some corncobs at hand! Or large mushrooms which you can fill with other veggies and cheese, potatoes which you can pop on the fire with some fresh herbs and butter, fresh fish, mangos, peaches, pineapples: rock yourself out! The stewed tomatoes, parsley pesto and corn bread in this blogpost you can all make a night before. The stewed tomatoes are a nice side dish, the parsley pesto you can put on literally anything and the cornbread you can grill on the barbecue and eat with your salad or fish. So, if you’re being invited to a nice barbecue in the foreseeable future, say yes! Or knock yourself out and have a barbecue party yourself! But beware: you’ll be the one in charge of the fire…
Recipe Stewed Tomatoes
3 red onions, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp cumin powder
grains of two corncobs
1 kilo tomatoes
400 ml coconut milk
salt and pepper to taste
a few sprigs of coriander or some finely chopped spring onion
1. Fry onions and garlic with salt, pepper and cumin in a large stockpot on medium fire for about 10 minutes.
2. Cut tomatoes and add to the stockpot. Fry for about 10 minutes. Add coconut milk and corn grains. Cook for 10 minutes (or until the corn grains are done). Serve with coriander or spring onion.
Serve these Stewed Tomatoes with cornbread, potatoes or rice.
Recipe Corn Bread
This bread gets old very quickly so bake it, let it cool down, cut it in slices and freeze it. You can put the frozen slices on the barbecue and eat them with Parsley Pesto, honey, or salted butter.
250 gr corn flour
300 gr wheat flour
pinch of salt
300 ml warm water
7 gr dried yiest
150 ml warm water
1 tsp sugar
1. In a small bowl mix yiest with sugar and 150 ml warm water. Set aside for 10 min. The mixture should be doubled in size and should be covered in foam otherwise your yiest is dead and you should start again.
2. In a large bowl mix corn flour, salt, and wheat flour. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and pour the yiest mixture into it. Knead until the dough comes together and isn’t sticky anymore (if this isn’t the case after 15 min. add a bit of wheat flour to the dough).
3. Leave the dough to rise for 60 min in a clean large oiled bowl or stockpot on a warm spot inside your house. Cover with a tablecloth. Search your house for the best spot, maybe it’s on top of your boiler, maybe it’s inside a drawer near the oven, maybe its somewhere else. This will help your dough rising and will improve the quality of the bread.
4. Knead the dough again for about 10 minutes. Place in a greased bread or cake baking mold and leave the dough to rise for 30 min this time, again on the best place you can find.
5. Preheat your oven on 200 degree Celsius and bake until your bread’s done, that should be about 40 min but you should check around 35 and then around 45 again because every oven does things differently.
Recipe Parsley Pesto
I made this pesto with parsley because I needed space in my kitchen garden for my little winter endive, kale, carrot, and beetroot plants but you can choose any fresh herb you want: basil, coriander, mint, or beetroot leaf, it all will do! And use a lot, like ‘a lot’ a lot. You can add a teaspoon dried rosemary or oregano to taste. The amount of olive oil you use depends on how solid or liquid you like your pesto.
a very large bunch of parsley (see picture)
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
100 gr roasted pine nuts
2 tbsp lemon juice
eyeball the amount of olive oil
1. Plunge the parsley a couple of times in water to remove sand. Chop the parsley. Roast the pine nuts in a hot skillet without oil or butter until golden.
2. Process pine nuts in your food processor. Then add all other ingredients except for the olive oil and process until smooth. Taste. Add salt and pepper and optional dried herbs to taste. Add the olive oil little by little until the pesto has the consisency you're looking for.
Serve this pesto with corn bread, French bread, baked potatoes, or use it as a dip for homemade fries.