I overdosed on sweetcorn as a kid. Fresh corn was a rarity, though; more often it was frozen half-cobs or Green Giant eaten from the tin. Like many markers of my childhood and teenage years, from wearing the petrol blue of my school uniform to drinking Malibu and Coke, I turned my back on sweetcorn. For years I couldn’t see its culinary merit, but I was missing out. Every year late in the summer, when papery wrapped cobs are four for £1, I make up for it. Corn comes at a time that’s half summer, half autumn, and these recipes bridge those seasons.
Corn and cauliflower chowder (pictured above)
In a chowder, corn is usually paired with potatoes to add creaminess and body. I use cauliflower here instead: it suits the season, as this soup is a little lighter than the potato version. It also makes use of the often wasted cauliflower leaves, which I crisp up in a pan as I would crispy kale. The basil, spring onion, green chilli and peanut topping is what makes it sing. You could use other nuts, and coriander would work in place of basil, if you like.
Prep 25 min
Cook 40 min
1 leek, trimmed and finely sliced
Salt and black pepper
4 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 pinch dried red chilli
350g cauliflower (about ½ a medium one), cut into small florets, leaves shredded
3 corn on the cob, kernels sliced off the husk (about 650g kernels)
1 x 400ml can coconut milk
1 tsp veg stock powder or ½ a cube
Juice of ½ lemon
1 green chilli, finely sliced
4 spring onions, sliced
1 bunch basil
1 handful roasted peanuts, roughly crushed
Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pan over a medium-high heat. Add the leeks and a good pinch of salt and cook for 10 minutes, until soft and sweet.
Add the garlic and dried chilli, cook for two minutes, then add the cauliflower florets, keeping the leaves for later. Add all but a handful of the corn, a good pinch of salt, the coconut milk, stock cube and one and a half tins of water, then bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes. It’s ready when the cauliflower is soft throughout and the soup has thickened a little. Blend with a hand blender until it’s about half liquidised. Add a little lemon juice and a good grind of black pepper. Taste, adding more salt, pepper and lemon as needed.
Heat a frying pan over a medium heat, add a little oil and then the remaining corn, the chopped chilli and spring onions, along with the shredded cauliflower leaves. Cook until the corn is charred and the leaves wilted to a deeper green. Serve on top of the soup with the herbs torn over and a scattering of peanuts.
Blackened corn salad, pickled chilli, tomato, herbs
I use one of my new favourite ingredients here: pickled chillies, which add an instant pop of heat, acidity and sweetness: a great foil for the smoky corn. I buy the jarred spicy Pepperdew ones from the supermarket, or make them myself. To make your own, heat 100ml white-wine vinegar with a tablespoon of sugar until dissolved and add four sliced chillies. Leave to pickle in the liquid for at least an hour.
Prep 20 min
Cook 45 min
2 small shallots, peeled and finely sliced
Juice of 2 limes
Extra-virgin olive oil
4 corn on the cob, kernels sliced off the husk (about 800g kernels)
4 pickled red chillies (shop bought, or make your own – see introduction to recipe)
4 tbsp Greek yoghurt (optional)
1 large bunch coriander leaves
A good grating of parmesan cheese (I use a vegetarian one, optional)
Put the shallots into a small bowl, squeeze over the lime juice, add a pinch of salt and scrunch a few times with your hands.
Heat about one tablespoon of oil in your largest frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the corn kernels and a good pinch of salt then cook, undisturbed, until well charred underneath – this will take about three minutes. Toss and cook again until the corn is charred all over – another three or four minutes.
Once the shallots have sat for a little while, add the pickled chillies, three tablespoons of olive oil and the yoghurt, if using. Season and mix.
Put the charred corn in a large bowl with half the coriander, pour over the dressing and toss together, adding more salt if needed. Finish with the rest of the coriander and, if you are using it, the parmesan.