Thursday, 17 September 2009

No one puts Baby in a corner*

A little bird told me recently that, though indeniably delectable and certainly pleasurable, there is no nutritional benefit to sweet corn. Whilst I am not absolutely religious when it comes to healthy eating (in fact I am very much a believer in the ‘little bit of what you fancy does you good’ mantra) this made me feel a little bit sad about it. Surely something so redolent of sunlight and basic wholesomeness had something going for it? It is a vegetable, weren’t they all supposed to be good for us?

So, I decided to do some research on behalf of this long-loved hunk; I felt I owed it. My favourite food as a child, it was always reliable, slathered in butter, great fun, even when in haste you burned your mouth to get to it. When we were small, Mum and Dad would offer the luxury ‘on or off the cob’ service, dependant on our moods, or how many milk teeth were loose at time of eating (between the four of us kids, a few came out this way).


The BSG and I have had a hankering for the husks recently, so I was absolutely delighted to find that they provide good amounts of vitamins A, B3 and C, fibre and folic acid, though as the name suggests there’s a fair amount of sweet starch too. We will keep crunching, guilt free. Purists may say that melted butter is the only way to have corn, but my favourite is how they served maïs on the street in Chiapas in Mexico – boiled, slathered with a slick of mayonnaise, powdered with red cayenne pepper and some lime juice squeezed over. Extraordinary. Their season is right now so go and get them!

Saturday dawned powdery blue and bright, and the BSG and I had the perfect day. London was in a good mood, full again after the holidays and at its bustly best. A trot around Borough Market slapped our senses awake, followed by a walk along the river and turn around Tate Modern, before lunch at our favourite tapas place, Barrafina in Soho. There was a short queue so, to pass the time, we opted for a Cruzcampo, a welcome quencher and in a frozen glass no less, and some emerald pimientos de padron, charred and sprinkled with generous flakes of salt. Of these, one in every ten or so is a hot one – has queuing ever been so much fun? Don’t be deterred, the wait never lasts long, or, in this case, long enough.


Our friend and fellow food adventurer G joined us for lunch. If skiing were eating, he is far more of an ‘off-piste’ person than I am. Perhaps it has something to do with having resided in Japan; he and the BSG encourage one another. This time, however, we stuck mostly to the piste (there was some octopus), with gloriously oozy ham and cheese croquetas, pan con tomate, chorizo and watercress, and an utter mouth party; morcilla, a blood sausage, with piquillo peppers topped with a quail’s egg. You couldn’t eat a lot of these, but this size they are hugely memorable. We lucked out with an outside table, but sitting inside at the bar you can see how beautifully these simple dishes come together in the kitchen, each chef knowing their own role…they even have one devoted entirely to the tortillas, done in tiny pans, little wonder then that they are so delicious.

The lazy late afternoon was passed in the lovely Albion pub in Islington, followed by the pizza competition to end them all. We bought our (yes a bit white and ugly) bread machine last year amidst much doubt that it’d get used – not only does it churn out delicious crusty loaves on a regular basis, but it makes the springiest pizza dough you could wish for. I am not knocking the many fine pizza establishments in this city, but to my mind nothing beats a homemade one….I don’t think we have been out for a pizza since.

Three days on from the sun and it feels like a different season altogether; there is a chill in the air and today the sky is slate grey, the rain coming down in rods. Last night the BSG knocked up the first autumnal supper, a risotto made with bacon and radicchio finished with parmesan and sage, the result was pink and beautiful like a leafy woodland floor. Possibly the best risotto I have ever had…


Watching him with a glass of wine in one hand as he stirred away, had we known then the sad news that the legendary Keith Floyd was gone I would have insisted that the BSG cook it out on the balcony in a high wind and a bow tie. My photography skills don’t yet run to risottos, so I will have to practice in order to do them justice. “A loving close-up on this please, Clive…”

(*A tenuous title perhaps with regards to corn, but it is a very sad day and Patrick Swayze’s death cannot go without a mention: it is hard to get him into a food blog. I’m off to watch Dirty Dancing…)


  1. I quite agree with you on the merits of corn on the cob. However adding a knob of butter to corn, asparagus, artichokes,new potatoes and carrots turns a healthy chore into a wicked treat. I've listed my favorites I wonder if there are other unsung veggies out there that become swans with butter added ?

  2. Thanks for reading! I am inclined to think that adding butter to anything makes it wickedly wonderful. As for unsung veg, many people hate them, but I love sprouts, especially steamed and served sliced up with butter and lots of black pepper. Leafy greens love it too.