prosciutto and roast sweetcorn muffins

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This coming Sunday, my beautiful friend Elissa (doctor and haiku writer extraordinaire) is moving to the port city of Bunbury from Perth, Western Australia. That’s 175 kilometres away; a great chunk of bitumen framed by dirt, trees and a kangaroo if you’re lucky.

No, it’s not the end of the world, or even the end of Western Australia. But it’s far enough to mean no last minute coffee dates, weeknight dinners or Rage-a-thons on Friday nights. For the next six-or-so months, our ‘dates’ will require a full tank of fuel and a sizeable drive. And a packed lunch (if you’re a Hobbit like me).

herbs

parsley

Understandably, the past fortnight has been a series of goodbye events for those of us in Elissa’s friendship group; particularly her beautiful bestie Deanne and… well, me (also known as ‘sisterling’, as we’ve been happily mistaken for sisters more than once).

The first of these goodbye events was two weeks ago; an afternoon tea at Elissa’s apartment for a small group of girlfriends. We drank tea from pretty cups whilst feasting on anecdotes, crudites, taramasalata, soft cheese and corn muffins with Parmesan and smoky paprika.

The latter were made by myself and Deanne with occasional help from a spotty-socked Kelpie named Lucy (below; she smiles for pig’s ears).

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lucy1Throughout the course of an afternoon, Deanne and I chatted, laughed, baked and cried. Somehow in the midst of that, these muffins emerged from the oven.

Despite the fact that I met Deanne through our mutual friendship with Elissa, I feel very blessed to have her in my life. She’s one of the most genuine, transparent, loving and generous hearts I have ever met on this earth. Her second blog Gratitude, All the Time is testament to that.

prosciutto

But back to the muffins: these were real crowd-pleasers. Moist, soft, sweet with blackened corn and salty with crisp prosciutto. They also had some added kick from the fragrant smoked paprika (Elissa referred to it as the ‘secret ingredient’ and I’d have to agree).

As for the recipe, Dea found it here via Good Food. We made a few edits, including the addition of dried parsley (there wasn’t enough of the fresh herb in the pot) and the substitution of whole milk for buttermilk (as Dea doesn’t believe in buttermilk. I think. Or something like that).

smokedpaprikaI’ve included an edited but unabridged version of the recipe below in case you’d like to try them. They’re simple and very forgiving (trust me, we interrupted the process multiple times).

Dea and I also feel that the muffins would be highly adaptable for those who prefer to exercise some artistic license. Chipotle and lime butter, anyone?

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Prosciutto and Roast Sweetcorn Muffins

Adapted from this recipe by Good Food.

Makes 12 regular-sized muffins

  • 200g canned corn kernels, drained (or fresh kernels from 2-3 cobs, removed)
  • 6 slices prosciutto
  • 225g self-raising flour, sifted
  • tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp castor sugar
  • tsp sea salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 150ml buttermilk
  • 80g butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan or cheddar cheese

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees C (374 degrees f). Drain your canned corn and scatter it over a lined oven tray.

corntrayBake for 10-15 minutes or until slightly blackened around the edges. Leave to cool.

Add the flour, paprika, cumin, sugar and sea salt to a large mixing bowl.

flours

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and melted butter. Add in the parsley and all but one tablespoon of the corn, mixing well.

Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture, then add in the egg and milk. Combine very lightly with a fork until thick and clumpy. Do not overmix.

Lightly oil twelve regular-sized muffin holes. Line the sides of each hole with a slice of prosciutto.

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Divide the mixture between the muffin holes, filling right to the top. Scatter over the remaining corn kernels and Parmesan cheese.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden (an inserted skewer should come out clean).

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Serve these muffins warm with butter, cream cheese and/or tomato chutney. They are best consumed on the day they were made.

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Elissa: thanks for being the genuinely beautiful friend that you are. Have a safe trip down to Bunno and know that we’re coming to visit you very, very soon (in fact, you’d better put the kettle on. You may never get rid of us).

Deanne: you’re amazing. You deserve to be treasured for the incredibly generous and wise person that you are. I look forward to our next cook-up very soon!

buttermilk corn fritters

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I’m listening to the breeze. It’s whisper-soft and gentle, fragrant with the smell of nearby eucalyptus trees, dust and fresh rainfall. The sun is high in the sky, casting patches of shadow on grass as a nearby emu ambles along a wire fence.

As you may have guessed, this post hasn’t been written from the common confines of our shoebox apartment (contrary to popular belief, emus and kangaroos don’t wander free in Australian capital cities). Two days ago, my husband and I packed our bags for a weekender in Dunsborough, a quiet town 254km south of Perth on the shores of Geographe Bay.   leaflandscape

Dunsborough is a beautiful place, known for its white sand, artisan food stores, aged timber and quality wines. It’s a popular weekend escape for Sandgropers of all ages, particularly due to its close proximity to Margaret River, a premium wine region surrounded by world-class surf beaches and rugged timber forests.

We were lucky enough to score a last minute invitation to a friend’s farm stay property, five minutes from Dunsborough town centre and one minute away from the famous Simmo’s ice creamery. We arrived late on Friday night in a flash of headlights and immediately felt… different. All the troubles of the week faded into a fragrant tumble of eucalyptus, scratching happy chickens and fresh figs from the tree, the latter eaten with local honey and foraged sprigs of mint.

fignutnature

Over the past two days, we’ve spent hours at the beach, sunbathing and searching for tiny crabs before barbecuing fresh-caught fish on a gas camp stove. We’ve played the guitar in the moonlight, swirling glasses of wine whilst singing along to the chirp of crickets in nearby grass and the boom of the local emu.

After sleeping on creaking mattresses we’ve woken to natural light before eating fresh farmyard eggs and bacon cooked on an outdoor barbecue. It’s been perfection, in holiday form, made better by the presence of lifelong friends who in my opinion are some of the best people on the planet.

lau&melcrab

I’m writing this last paragraph two days after our return to Perth. It’s 7.00am, the sun is casting a warm glow through the window and my mind is flickering towards my office and the growing pile of paperwork requiring my attention. However, I can’t finish this post without the addition of a recipe, so below you’ll find a breakfast dish that was developed, cooked and devoured in the fresh air during our weekend in Dunsborough.

fritmont

These corn fritters are crispy on the outside, soft on the inside and flaked with juicy nuggets of golden sweetcorn. They’re deliciously versatile, made even better during our time away by the addition of fresh organic eggs, hand-picked garlic chives and dried chillies (the latter were grown and harvested by my friends Patti and Mel). We enjoyed our fritters with smoked salmon, fried eggs (I attempted poaching over a camp stove but failed dismally), tomato chutney, lemon-infused sour cream, spinach and avocado. I’ve included some recipe additions and variations under ‘notes’ below if you’re feeling adventurous.

However you try them, I hope you enjoy these corn fritters as much as we did. Oh, and if you’re a Perth city slicker, I’d highly recommend a trip to the country. It’s refreshing for the body, mind and spirit… the way nature intended.

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Buttermilk Corn Fritters

Makes approximately 12, 6-8cm diameter fritters

  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 315g creamed corn
  • 400g sweetcorn kernels (equivalent to 1 large sweetcorn cob, kernels removed, or 420g can corn kernels, drained)
  • ¼ cup chopped garlic chives
  • ¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • sea salt
  • white pepper
  • unsalted butter and olive oil, to fry

Sift flour into a large bowl, then make a well in the centre. Fold in your liquid ingredients: buttermilk, eggs and creamed corn. Taste, then season with salt, pepper and chilli flakes. mixmont

Add in your corn kernels, chives and parmesan, then fold until just combined. Your mix is now ready to fry.

Warm a heavy-based, non-stick frypan over medium heat. When hot, remove from heat before adding a tablespoon of unsalted butter and some good quality olive oil. When the butter has melted, return the pan to the heat and add heaped tablespoons of the mixture, three at a time. Use the back of a spoon to shape the fritter mixture into 6-8cm diameter rounds.

forks

Cook your fritters until the edges begin to crisp up and small bubbles start appearing in the mixture. Flip them over carefully with a slotted spatula. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes, or until the fritters are crisp on both sides, lightly browned and firm to the touch. If it’s a cold day, I’d recommend placing your cooked fritters in a slow oven (150 degrees C/300 degrees f) to keep warm whilst you begin your next batch.

Drain on paper towels before serving 2-3 fritters per person. Great accompaniments include lemon-infused sour cream, crème fraiche, smoked salmon or crispy bacon, poached eggs, fresh herbs, sliced avocado and tomato chutney.

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Notes:

  • Corn is a great source of dietary fibre whilst being low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. It also contains beneficial amounts of thiamin, niacin (B vitamins), vitamin C, potassium and folate. However, being high in starch and natural sugars, it’s definitely not a low carbohydrate food (which is why it’s used to make sweet corn syrup). Watch your intake if you enjoy being sedentary!
  • If you’re feeling inventive, these fritters are very open to adaptation. Great additions to the basic fritter mixture include small pieces of crispy bacon, extra cheese (crumbled feta is fantastic), finely chopped herbs (try parsley or coriander), spices (try some cumin and coriander seeds for a deliciously Middle Eastern twist) or for extra nutritional value, grated carrot.
  • For a Southern American version, omit the chilli, pepper and chives from your mixture and mix in 1 tsp caster sugar before frying. Serve with crispy bacon and maple syrup or honey for a classic sweet-and-salty hit. Yum. Oh, and please don’t deep-fry them. It’s not necessary (repeat after me: you are not Elvis).
  • If you’re a vegan, I’ve found a deliciously suitable corn fritter recipe just for you. It’s by Nancy at The Sensitive Pantry and utilises an egg replacer alongside coconut milk and sorghum flour. I haven’t test-driven it yet, but I have absolute faith in this woman’s abilities. She is the queen of cooks for those with food allergies and intolerances.  forkplate

mexican corn salad

Sunlight filters through the security door as I sit listening to the low hum of the air-conditioner on the wall. It’s the final week of October and… well, I think Summer is well and truly on the way. Yesterday the barometer hit 35 degrees Celsius (95 degrees Fahrenheit) and today’s predicted to be 34 degrees Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit). Definitely the right weather for icy mojitos, trips to the beach and dinners on the balcony as the sun dips beneath the trees.

If you’re one of those nice people who read my last post, you might remember that I contemplated starting a new Summer recipe series. Well, this is the first installment of that series, which I’ve entitled ‘Summer Salads’ for the sake of giving it a name. At my house, salads are eaten all year round, mostly due to the fact that we’re fortunate enough to have mild winters here in Western Australia. Due to this fact, I’ve developed an obscenely large repertoire of salads, both warm and cold, the latter of which I’m going to be sharing with you over the pending Summer months.

Today’s salad is one that I’ve made (possibly) hundreds of times, mostly due to the ease of assembly and the fact that it goes fantastically well with everything from grilled fish to barbecued chicken, tortillas and tacos. I’ve called it a ‘Mexican Corn Salad’ as it’s core ingredients echo those found in many Mexican recipes… but with a slight alteration of ingredients you can transform it into any corn salad you like. I’ve included some of my own variations below, which I hope will be welcome additions to your recipe repertoire over the Summer months. However, as with all of my recipes, I’d encourage experimentation… just remember that with salad recipes, freshness, colour and a balance of ingredients is the key to success.

Mexican Corn Salad

Serves 4

  • 2 ears of corn, husked
  • 1 avocado, peeled and roughly chopped (or scooped out of the skins with a spoon)
  • 1/2 small Spanish (red) onion,  finely sliced
  • 1/2 punnet (about 150g) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • zest of 1 lime
  • juice from 1 lime (or lemon)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (use less if you can’t tolerate chilli)
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Place your corn cobs in a medium saucepan on the stovetop and cover with fresh water. Bring to the boil. Boil for 1-2 minutes, then drain and immediately refresh in cold water to stop the cooking process. When your corn cobs are cool enough to handle, place them upright onto a chopping board and use a sharp knife to remove the kernels (see below). Place the kernels into a medium-sized bowl to continue the cooling process.

Once your corn has sufficiently cooled, add your remaining vegetables to the bowl. Mix together your lime or lemon juice, lime zest, olive oil, salt and pepper in a screw-top jar. Replace the lid and shake briefly. Taste and adjust as necessary (if you find that your dressing is too acidic, you can add in a little bit of honey). Pour over your salad and toss to combine.

So that’s your finished salad. For a Mexican-style feast, I’d suggest that you serve a spoonful wrapped in warm flour tortillas with some sliced grilled chicken, guacamole, shaved queso manchego viejo (delicious Mexican hard cheese, substitute with Cheddar or Parmesan) and some herb-infused sour cream. To make the lemony, herby sour cream, just place about 100ml of sour cream into a bowl and add in the juice of half a lemon, freshly chopped mint and coriander, a pinch of dried mint, a little ground cumin, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Top with a drizzle of lemon oil, then dollop over your tortilla filling. Deliciously easy and a great crowd-pleaser.

Notes:

  • As above-mentioned, this salad is very open to adjustments and substitutions. To keep with the Mexican theme, you can feel free to add in some sliced red peppers (capsicum), finely chopped cucumber or grated cheese. To transform it into a more traditionally Australian salad, omit the tomatoes, lime, Spanish onion and chilli, then substitute in some quartered baby beets, crumbled feta and sliced spring onions. The dressing stays the same, except that I’d recommend using lemon instead of lime. This is a delicious accompaniment to barbecues.
  • If you’d like to serve this salad as a main meal with some grilled chicken or fish, just add in about half a cup of cooked white quinoa or brown rice. Double the dressing, and add in a squeeze of honey for sweetness. This is great with a spoonful of the herb-infused sour cream on the side.
  • Another delicious serving suggestion is to pile a spoonful of this salad into a taco shell with fried ground beef or Chili Con Carne, grated cheese and some herb-infused sour cream. Add salsa or guacamole as desired.
  • The normal ratio of oil to acid (vinegar or citrus juice) in salad dressings is 3:1, however in this recipe I’ve reduced the oil component as I like the freshness of the vegetables to be unobscured by oiliness. Test your salad and adjust it to suit your personal taste.
  • There’s no replacement for fresh corn in this salad. Frozen and canned corn kernels will do in a pinch, but they won’t have the sweet juiciness that fresh corn kernels have. If you’re going to use frozen corn, I’d suggest cooking the kernels as briefly as possible to prevent them from becoming waterlogged.

So that’s the first installment of my ‘Summer Salads’ series completed… check back here in a couple of weeks for the next recipe: Baby Beet Salad with balsamic onions, goat’s feta, soft herbs and toasted walnuts.

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