I’ve had cornbread many a time in the States. On the last occasion it arrived baked in a flower pot which was charming, if a little twee (and, for those of you fed up with being served food in odd things, amuse yourself with this), and I remember thinking I must try and make it. But I didn’t think of it again until I saw a recipe in Waitrose Kitchen for cornbread with chorizo and avocado. It used instant polenta, the sort of ingredient I would never touch but, although I ignored that recipe, it did lead me to Felicity Cloake’s article in the Guardian. Which, I have to say, lives up to its ‘Perfect’ name.
This is easy, and cheap (284ml of buttermilk will set you back 50p or so, a 500g bag of coarse cornmeal, about 70p and you need half of that) and one of the most delicious things ever: have it warm straight from the oven, toast it as you would any other bread and spread with cold butter or fry it in warm butter and serve it for breakfast, as I did, adapting the Waitrose recipe, with some of this homemade chorizo, a little sliced avocado and a sprinkle of fresh coriander.
I have tried it twice, first using leftover chicken fat in the fridge (Cloake recommends bacon fat) and soaking the cornmeal for a couple of hours, then using butter and soaking it, as she recommends, overnight. I think the latter had the edge for me. I can only apologise to my future dinner guests; they may be eating this rather a lot. Though not from plant pots.
Cornbread (adapted from here)
Makes a 20cm-round loaf . You will need an ovenproof frying pan.
Cupboard (or things you may already have)
soft light brown sugar, 2 tsp
salt, ½ tsp
baking powder, 1 tsp
bicarbonate of soda, ¼ tsp
bacon fat or butter, 2 tbsp
coarse cornmeal, 200g
1. Toast the cornmeal in a dry frying pan, until fragrant but not coloured (a few minutes; you should be able to smell its toastiness).
2. Mix half the toasted cornmeal with all of the buttermilk and leave to soak (for at least 2 hours but overnight is better).
3. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan-assisted/gas 7. Mix the soaked cornmeal with the rest of the cornmeal and all the other dry ingredients. Beat the eggs and add to the mixture, stirring in until smooth.
4. Put the butter or fat into a 20cm ovenproof frying pan and heat until it sizzles. Tip this over the rest of the ingredients (yes, it will look unappetising and swimming in fat but not for long). Stir in well.
5. Return the same frying pan to a high heat, then tip in the batter (it should sizzle as it hits the pan). Put in the oven and bake until golden and firm (I find this takes about 15-20 minutes).