#Cornography Day 47: Stilton, Red Cabbage Chilli Pickle, and Corn Grilled Cheese

DSC_0556

Today I riffed on an earlier corn creation, utilising some delicious chilli pickle I made a few weeks ago by blitzing bird’s eye and Scotch bonnet chillies along with scraps of red cabbage, black sesame seeds, and a few other bits in a food processor. It’s funky, tangy, and quite spicy. I spread it on a slice of bread and layered Stilton and corn on another. I sandwiched them together and fried them in butter on a low heat. When the bread was golden brown on both sides, I cut it in half and indulged. The Stilton was powerful. The cabbage pickle rose up to meet it like the colonized rising up against the colonists. A fierce battle raged. Both sides used their biggest guns and dirtiest tactics. It was a funky, cheesy, rich, prickly, hot, hot mess. But who won? Alas, in war, there are no winners. Least of all the corn, which I could barely taste.

It was delicious and extremely filling. It demanded barleywine, but it was lunchtime, and I was alone. Next time.

#Cornography Day 46 (Halfway): Sesame-Roasted Carrots and Salsify with Corn

Before I get into today’s corn dish, I must celebrate a landmark: this is the exact midpoint of my challenge, with 45 days gone and 45 to go. That’s right – I’m halfway there. (Livin’ on a prayer.) I think a retrospective is in order. Admittedly, there have been a lot of mediocre preparations, and at least a couple utter failures, but for the most part, I have enjoyed what I’ve cooked with corn and I haven’t even gotten sick of it. The only times when I regret accepting this bet is when I come home after a long day, having already eaten three full meals, completely un-hungry, and I realize I still have to cram a can of corn down my gob. Otherwise, I truly enjoy eating it. On some days, it’s actually something I look forward to. Plus, I have produced some truly excellent dishes along the way:

That grapefruit salad alone just about makes this whole ordeal worth it. Highly recommended.

image

Anyway, I must press on. There’s corn to be done. Today I made a simple sesame dressing out of tahini, sesame oil, sesame seeds, mirin, kabosu juice, yuzu zest, MSG, salt, vegetable oil, and grated ginger, garlic, and shallot. I used this to coat batons of multi-colored carrots and salsify along with a can of corn. The vegetables were roasted at 200ºC for about 45 minutes. The sesame sauce clung tightly to the veg, and everything caramelized beautifully. The carrots and salsify had a wonderful chew, and the corn was not out of place – sweet and nutty, to match the glaze.

image

I served it with some lovely brill, which I poached in a mixture of umeboshi puree and akazake, a rare kind of cooking sake from Kumamoto that I was lucky enough to happen upon  in a department store basement in Tokyo. The sauce had a deep sweet and sour flavor, and the fish was satiny soft. The recipe can be found in my upcoming cookbook, if you are keen to try it (you can substitute Shaoxing wine for the akazake).

image

#Cornography Day 45: Miso Ramen with Salmon and Shoyu-Butter Corn

image

I began by pan-roasting a couple fillets of salmon with butter. When the salmon was just cooked, I removed it from the pan and added corn. I cranked up the heat and let the corn brown, then added some shoyu and let it reduce to a sticky glaze. I then made a light broth from sardine dashi powder and mixed miso, brought it to a boil, and added some ramen (actually spelt noodles). Meanwhile I placed a little butter and grated yuzu peel in the bottom of ramen bowls. When the noodles were done, I transferred them, along with the broth, to the bowls and topped them with the corn, flaked salmon, spring onions, and sesame seeds. It was okay, but disappointing. The noodles lacked texture. The broth lacked depth. The whole thing lacked an acidic, pickly element. Not bad, but not my best work.

Shut Up About Yuzu: A Introduction to Alternative Citrus Fruits

With its intoxicating aroma and invigorating tang, yuzu is a fruit that’s easy to fall in love with. Perhaps a little too easy. These days, so many chefs and brewers are using yuzu that they risk making it something it should never be: boring. Familiarity breeds contempt, and we’re all getting awfully familiar with yuzu.

I understand that there’s something irresistible about yuzu, but if everybody uses it then it loses some of its appeal. I fear we may have reached ‘peak yuzu.’ These days it is so common that it may begin to have the opposite effect of that intended: instead of making a dish or a beer exotic and intriguing, it could make it mundane and samey.

Besides, it’s irritating to see so much buzz about yuzu when there are so many other equally interesting citrus fruits out there to experiment with. It’s time to try something new. The next time you’re tempted to cook or brew with yuzu, stop and ask yourself a few questions: Why am I using yuzu? Is there a more delicious alternative? Is there a more interesting alternative? Is there a cheaper alternative? Chances are, there is – there’s a whole world of citrus to explore. I would suggest any of the following as a start:

Bergamot

Citrus_bergamia_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-184

Bergamot is most famous for being a key component of Earl Grey tea, but its applications certainly don’t stop there. Its peel is alluringly aromatic, with an exuberant floral character reminiscent of roses and citronella. The fruit itself is dense and full of a delightful juice that has a lime-like sourness, grapefruity bitterness, and a touch of the same floral aroma found in the peel.

Uses: The peel, trimmed of its bitter pith, can be infused into light broths or used to garnish cocktails. The juice works well in place of lime, especially in fresh, spicy soups, salads, and stir-fries. The entire fruit can also be turned into a marmalade.

Meyer Lemon

"Meyer Lemon" by Debra Roby. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Meyer Lemon” by Debra Roby. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Meyer lemons are small-ish lemons with more sweetness than typical varieties and a slightly more interesting aroma, with herbal and floral notes that remind me of thyme and honeysuckle. They are sweet enough and tender enough that you can even eat the pith. Whenever I can get them, I like to slice them thinly and toss them through a salad with fennel, feta, and olive oil.

Uses: I quite like the idea of Meyer lemon kosho, a clever twist on a traditional yuzu product. They also make an excellent limoncello. I would come up with more ideas, but the LA Times already has Meyer lemons pretty well covered.

Dekopon

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 20.58.38

Dekopon are large, gorgeously sweet hybrid tangerines. They taste like Orange Crush with a pinch of preserved lime. In my mind, there’s no orange that tastes quite so orange-y. They’re great to eat on their own, but I’d love to see them used in cooking and brewing more – imagine a dekopon IPA. Now that would be a #juicybanger.

Uses: Their natural sweetness makes dekopon a clear choice for desserts. They would be beautiful as a flavoring for a custard tart, trifle, or sorbet. But they could also work wonders in savory dishes where a sweet, tangy glaze is appropriate – for example, on duck, pork, carrots, or even eel.

Buddha’s Hand

Buddhas_hand_1

I was introduced to Buddha’s hand by Jocky Petrie, who had been developing recipes with the fruit at The Ledbury. The most amazing thing about Buddha’s hand is its appearance – more like the tentacles of Cthulhu than the fingers of Buddha, I think, but maybe that’s just me. Anyway, it is one of the most striking edible plants I’ve seen, and the flavor ain’t bad, either. It is quite similar to bergamot, but less intense and more lemony.

Uses: Jocky slices the fruit very thinly and pickles it, which is then draped over mackerel – a brilliant application. The Kitchn has some other clever ideas. But of course, since so much of its impact is visual, you may want to keep it as a centrepiece for the table at a dinner party – its appearance and aroma will likely have as much of an effect on diners as its flavor would.

Procimequat

Procimequat_IMG_0807

This is the one fruit on this list that I haven’t tried, but it just sounds awesome. One home gardener describes the flavor of this backcrossed kumquat as a mix of ‘celery, lemon, and orange,’ which to me sounds like it would be excellent chopped up into a salsa for fish, or as a garnish for a Martini. The catch: as far as I can tell, it isn’t available commercially. However, it appears to be relatively easy to grow. Let me know if you can track some down.

Uses: The fruit of the procimequat is only the size of a marble, so it would make a cute garnish for seafood dishes or desserts. The herbal citrus flavor would be right at home in a wheat beer, as well.

Honorable mentions: Kaffir lime, oroblanco, shatkora, sweet lime, and bitter orange.

How to Use Your Yuzu

DSC_0524

A few weeks ago, the stars aligned in such a way that I was able to indulge in an impromptu trip to Tokyo. The airfare was cheap, both Laura and I had time off, and the yen-pound exchange rate was the best we’d seen for years. We were only in Tokyo for five days – ordinarily, such a short trip is foolish when you consider the base costs, but in this case those costs were so low it seemed silly not to go.

There is, of course, a lot to get excited about in a holiday to Japan. But one of the things I was most looking forward to was the citrus fruit, which is in season right now. Japanese citrus fruits are more varied than what we typically find in the UK, and in my opinion, more delicious. I was particularly hopeful about the prospect of buying some dekopon, the one true King of Oranges. Actually a hybrid tangerine from Kumamoto, it looks cool, peels easily, rarely has seeds, and has a flavor like orange Crush spiked with preserved lime. It’s candy-sweet but with an effervescent tartness. It is the Platonic ideal of an orange.

Happily, it was easy for me to find dekopon, along with a huge range of other citrus including Japanese kumquats, sudachi limes, banpeiyu pomelos, hyuganatsu grapefruits, and of course, the famous yuzu. Yuzu is one of my favorite flavors in Japanese gastronomy, and I’m not alone. It’s currently sweeping the nation with its intriguing aroma and balanced acidity – Waitrose now sells pure yuzu juice, Sainsbury’s sells a yuzu juice blend, and seemingly every week a new microbrewery announces they’ve got a yuzu beer in the tanks. It’s a good time to be a yuzuphile.

But the problem is, it’s still virtually impossible to get fresh yuzu here. The juice has become common, and you can find the dried or frozen peel at Japanese supermarkets, but no fresh fruit. Which is a shame, because the best way to use yuzu is to harness the volatile aromas in its peel, aromas that seem to dissipate almost entirely in processing. I had several meals in Tokyo that featured yuzu, and I was amazed at just how little grated fresh peel you need to flavor an entire dish – a pinch is all it takes to lift a bowl of soymilk soup, or a scallop dumpling, or a grilled prawn. Determined to harness the power of fresh yuzu in my own cooking, I piled half a dozen of them into my suitcase and took them home.

DSC_0523

There’s just one snag: you actually need so little yuzu peel to add flavor food that I am having trouble getting through them all before they go off. So today, I figured I would try to preserve what I had left, but in a way that won’t prematurely vaporize or break down its aroma. Here’s what I came up with.

Yuzu Oil

DSC_0536

To fully understand what I was dealing with, I first dissected the yuzu to taste each of its individual parts separately: peel, pith, pulp, and seeds. The seeds were noxiously bitter and horrible so that’s the last I’ll mention of them. The peel, as I knew, was tender, oily, and aromatic. But interestingly, the pith was also quite good – unlike most citrus, it wasn’t very bitter. It was almost kind of sweet. It had a spongy texture and a light acidity and was overall very pleasant, which is fortunate, because there is a lot of it.

DSC_0526

I took about half the peel and pith (38g in total) and julienned it, then simply muddled it into 380g of rapeseed oil. Right now the oil has already picked up some of the yuzu’s lemony zip. The hope is that over the course of a week or so, more of the yuzu’s compounds will infuse into the oil. It can then be strained and drizzled onto soups or used in light dressings. Now we play the waiting game.

Salted Yuzu Paste

DSC_0535

One of my favorite yuzu products is yuzu-kosho, a paste made from pounding yuzu peel, hot chillies, and salt together. The mixture is typically matured before using, so that the flavors to meld together. I think it is one of the most delicious condiments in the world, at once salty, tart, and spicy. Its aroma is strongly evergreen, almost woody. The only problem is that it is hot, and there are often dishes to which I’d like to add a yuzu-kosho aroma without the yuzu-kosho heat. So I wondered if I could make a kosho-free yuzu-kosho, a yuzu-nosho, if you will. I finely diced the remaining pith and peel (31g) and bashed it to an oily paste with 10% its weight in salt (3.1g). I am going to let it rest at room temperature for at least a week before using, and I suspect it will improve over time.

Yuzu Tincture

DSC_0538

With the pith and peel squared away, I was left with the yuzu’s spongy, seedy pulp. I squeezed out as much juice as I could – only a tablespoon or so from the whole fruit, which goes to show why the juice is so expensive – and stopped myself before throwing the squeezed-out membranes in the bin. This was the bitterest part of the yuzu, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful. Not knowing when I would next be able to get my hands on a fresh yuzu, I decided to try and salvage this as well. I put it in a jar and poured over some vodka. I shook it up, and now I’ll wait for few days. With a little luck I will have a bitter and aromatic infusion to flavor light, citrus-friendly cocktails like sidecars, Vespers, and gimlets.

I will report back in a week or two on how everything is tasting. Working with the fresh yuzu has made me think about other citrus as well – ordinary stuff, the stuff we take for granted. If my oil, paste, and bitters turn out as intended, I may never waste another shred of citrus again.

#Cornography Day 44: Pasta Fazool with Corn

DSC_0518The reason I’m calling this pasta fazool and not pasta e fagioli is because I don’t want anybody to think this is actually an authentic Italian dish. All it is, really, is pasta and beans. Where does it come from? Who knows? Who cares? It’s delicious and that’s all that matters.

DSC_0514

Last year I discovered that pasta with red sauce is my favorite thing to eat when I’m hungover. It’s comforting, flavorful, and nutritious-ish but still hefty and carbo-loaded. And I was in dire need of just that sort of thing this morning, stirred from sleep by a headache and a dry mouth and a general shag carpet fuzziness. (Beer festival last night. I was ‘working’ there.)

I cut an onion into a medium dice and sauteed it in plenty of olive oil. When they were starting to color I added quite a lot of chopped garlic, followed by a can of corn with peppers, then some sliced mushrooms and equal parts salt and Haimi to season, plus a little Old Bay, thyme, and fennel for extra flavor. When the mushrooms were tender I added a tin of tomatoes, red wine, and Shaoxing wine. I simmered everything for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes had broken down, and then added butter beans and some chopped green olives. Finally I stirred in some wholemeal penne and finely chopped parsley. I dished it up and garnished it with an indecent amount of good Parmesan. It was just what the doctor ordered. As I ate it, I could feel a battle rage within me, as the righteous forces of pasta vanquished the demon hangover hordes that had ransacked my nervous system. I feel better now – still tired, but no longer achy, hazy, or queasy. I am ready to take on whatever this Sunday throws at me. (Possibly a nap.)

DSC_0516

#Cornography Day 43: Corn with Olive Oil and Linseeds

Today’s cholesterol-busting corn breakfast was made and eaten quickly before a day of filming at a beer festival. Not exactly stonach-lining, but nutritious and delicious all the same. Corn with peppers lightly dressed with extra virgin olive oil, a handful of linseeds and a few drops of hot sauce. The light bitterness of the oil worked very well with the sweetness of the corn.

image