When I was a child visiting France, I was shocked to see dried-out corn cobs piling up in cages at the edge of fields. The French consider maize to be animal feed.
For Native Americans from both North and South maize is a staple food, along with beans and squash. In Mexico, maize or ‘masa’ was nixtamalised, mixed with wood ash, which raised the vitamin level and unlocked amino acids. This process was vital to prevent Pellagra, a disease from an absence of niacin.
In South America, they use a special ‘masarepa’ which is pre-cooked, to make arepas, which are bannocks made from corn. You can buy masarepa in white or yellow form (they can be mixed) online from Tesco or Amazon.co.uk.
The Italians use maize to make polenta, while popcorn is popular everywhere. I’ve noticed my teething granddaughter is a huge fan of gnawing on a section of corn on the cob. The benefits of maize are that it is gluten-free, filling, naturally sweet and a worthy addition to our wheat-dominant diet. All variety is great for your gut micro-biome.
Arepas with cheese
- 300 g masa arepa
- 450 ml water
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 ear or small tin of fresh sweet corn
- butter/veg oil for frying
- 200 g Wensleydale cheese, thinly sliced
- Mix the masa arepa, the water and salt together in a bowl. Leave to stand for 10 minutes or so.
- Form balls then flatten them into burger sized patties.
- Add the sweet corn. If using fresh, cut the sides away from the cob and add to the mixture. If using tinned, drain and add to the arepa mixture.
- Heat up a cast iron/ flat frying pan/crepe maker on the stove until hot.
- Add oil/butter to the pan and fry the arepas for 2 or 3 minutes on each side to seal them.
- Lower the heat, add a lid and let them cook/steam inside for 8 to 10 minutes.
- Remove and top with cheese. Serve with chilli sauce if desired.
Grilled corn salad
- 4 corn on the cobs, as fresh as possible
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 3 spring onions, sliced thinly
- large handful cherry or small plum tomatoes, quartered or in eighths
- handful fresh coriander leaves
- 1 small red chilli, chopped finely (optional)
For the dressing:
- 2 limes, zest and juice
- 3 tbsps your preferred salad dressing oil
- 1 tsp salt
- Using a large saucepan, cover the corn on the cobs with boiling water, the salt and sugar. Boil for 10 minutes then remove and drain.
- Put the corn on the cobs on either a bbq or dry roast on the hob. Keep turning so you get it slightly blackened on each side.
- Put the cooked corn on the cobs in a glass (to stop it slipping) in a shallow wide bowl and cutting downwards, shave the corn from the sides of the cob into the bowl.
- Add the rest of the ingredients, along with the dressing and serve.
Elotes, corn on the cob Mexican style
- 4 sweet corn on the cob
- 300 ml sour cream or creme fraiche
- 100 g grated parmesan or cotija Mexican cheese or crumbled feta
- A shake of Tajin or
- Chipotle sauce or sweet paprika if you don't like heat
- 1 lime, quartered
- Sea salt to taste
- In a large pan of boiling salted water, boil the corn cobs until tender (about ten minutes).
- Attach forks, skewers or corn on the cob holders to the corn.
- Then using the 'handle' to turn the corn, grill it over a flame or under a grill to get it slightly blackened.
- Pour the sour cream into a shallow bowl and dip the length of the corn into it.
- Sprinkle the parmesan or other cheese over the corn cob.
- Shake the Tajin over it or pour a little chilli sauce, add a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of sea salt to each cob.
- Serve immediately (but actually it's also good cold).