These days I Iive for more local adventures in Nigeria, with delightful food that the season blesses us with. Fresh greens, bright and beautiful fruits, glowing like jewels across the country. Avocado, corn, orange, mango, and more. The country is ripe with amazing produce.
Corn with Green Peas, Kale & Roasted Garlic Butter
One of the most striking memories from Lagos, Nigeria is the food. You will be struck by wonderful aromas of boiled or roasted corn & pear, roasted peanuts thrown in the air to release its skins, roasted plantains and many more enchanting foods.
These memories are bound to us and I am fortunate to be able to share them with you through my recipes.
Years ago, I drove past a farmer’s market in Lagos and I was enchanted by the enveloping aroma of boiled corn cooking away at a roadside food stall. This evoked feelings of warmth and happiness and all day I found myself fantasising about eating corn. The next day I decided to send for some corn - and made a delightful salad with roasted garlic, green peas, green beans and local basil leaves - which I took to a friend's birthday party.
My sunny salad was enjoyed by all and my joy was to see the children excited and coming back for seconds and thirds! This corn salad is refreshing, filling and rather indulgent. Perfect for a summer barbecue. In Nigeria I made this with green beans and served in the corn husks as an inedible vessel, while in England I recreated this with green peas and roasted cavalo nero - Italian kale and it was wonderful. Do try it and let me know how you get on.
Corn salad in husks
Pick out the best corn by picking the freshest possible. The older corn gets the more starch is developed reducing its sweetness. When buying from markets, don't be shy to ask before you buy. You can substitute the butter for olive oil, but I always say, everything tastes better with butter! I hope you enjoy this recipe as I will, taking me back to wonderful days in bustling Lagos.
Corn with Green Peas, Roasted Kale & Garlic Butter
Preparation & Cooking time: 50 – 60 mins
Feeds: 4 – 8 hungry tummies
6 ears of corn / 400g drained canned sweet corn
300g / 2 cups of green beans
A large bowl of ice & water or very cold water
57g / 1/4 cup / 4 tbs melted butter
4 cloves of garlic
5 leaves of wild basil
500g Cavolo nero or any variety of kale
1 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Let’s get cooking!
1. Fill a large pot of water but not to the brim, and place on the stove to boil. Place your corn into a large bowl or sink to shuck them. Shucking is undressing the corn from its husk. The best way to do this without leaving a lot of the golden-brown silk on the cob is to tightly hold on to the tip of the corn and pull the husk back in one strong motion. Finish by breaking off the stems. It can be easier to shuck corn after cooking, but you must take care to do this once thoroughly cooled.
2. Clean any leftover silk on the cob and rinse thoroughly before carefully placing it into the pot of boiling water. Cover and allow to cook for 10 – 20 mins until the corn softens and depending on the produce. Some cook as quickly as in 6 minutes while others may take a little longer. You can also roast, grill, or barbecue whole for 15 - 20 minutes.
3. In another small pot of boiling water, cook the green beans and peas for 4 minutes with a generous pinch of salt. Once cooked, drain the water and pour the beans and peas into the bowl of ice and water. This will shock them to cool down in temperature. It is important to stop the cooking process and to maintain the colour and texture of the vegetables which would otherwise turn dull green with a soggy and unappealing texture. After a minute, take them out of the ice water bath and set aside.
4. If you are using canned sweet corn, drain the liquid and boil the corn with water for 4 minutes. Once the corn on the cob is cooked, drain the hot water and place the cobs separated on a large tray to cool down. Melt the butter in a bowl by placing it in the microwave or carefully placing the bowl inside a pot of simmering water. Be careful by using a napkin or kitchen mittens to hold the hot bowl. Using the back of a wide knife smash the garlic onto a hard surface like your kitchen table. This will dislodge the cloves from the outer layer making them easier to peel.
5. To roast the kale, preheat the oven to 200C. Wash leaves and dry thoroughly. Place dry kale leaves on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, season with a pinch of salt and black pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, turning the leaves halfway through cooking to cook well on both sides. Set aside when cooked and crispy.
6. Heat a small frying pan and once hot, add the garlic to dry roast for a few minutes until they turn starts to turn brown. Take it out of the pan and add with the scent leaves and a pinch of salt into a small mortar. Grind roughly until smooth, scoop, and mix into the melted butter. This dressing can be made a day in advance because the longer the garlic and herb sit in the butter, the more intense and wonderful the dressing will be.
7. Once the corn is much cooler, one at a time, hold cob upright, flat side down, with one hand and with the other hand, use a knife to cut off the corn from the cob. Use pressure when cutting to make sure you get to the bed of the cob in order to get all the corn off.
8. In a large bowl, mix together, the corn, green peas, greens beans, and roasted garlic butter dressing. Add a 1/4 tsp of salt, sprinkle freshly ground black pepper, and mix thoroughly to ensure the dressing gets to every bit of the salad. Taste to make sure it is well seasoned. The corn can sit in the dressing a day before or all day in the fridge before serving.
9. To serve I washed the best of the husks placed on a tray and scooped the salad onto them. Make this for friends and family to impress them with something truly wonderful and different. Enjoy this on its own or with your grill of choice.
This recipe has been adapted and was originally published in print and online on The Guardian Ng.
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