About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Friday, October 06, 2006
Weekend Herb Blogging
I'm having a miserable morning.

First up, as soon as I got out of bed and on the way to the shower, D asked if I could take M to the school bus. I don't know about anyone else, but before I have a shower, I'm not really awake, just pretending....some days I pretend until the first cup of coffee. The words that entered my ears somehow mysteriously changed somewhere up the ear canal, before they hit the brain, to could I take M to her holiday school program, which is what I was doing during the school holidays....last week. At about the time we should have been at the bus stop, we were very comfortable on the couch at home, and at that precise moment my wife's words unscrambled themselves.

I raced to the phone to let the bus know and to organize a different pick-up point, so now I'm late for work as well. We get to the alternative pick-up no problem, then I flew off to work. Go visit a sub-contractor who is doing a job promised today, to find he hasn't even started it. Back to work to think of what lie, err, excuse I can give, when the phone rings, it's my ex ringing to complain. Well, that soon gets out of hand, probably because I'm a bit flustered by now. So I think of what might calm me down. How about writing the neat post I was working on last night? Good idea, except in my rush this morning, I've left behind a reference book I need to write it.


Well gentle reader, I do want to give you something for today and for no particular reason I'm going to give you maize or corn as it is mostly known as. This will be my entry to WHB, hosted this month by Ruth from the aptly named Once Upon a Feast. Corn was first under cultivation by about 3500 b.c. in Central America and from there, spread out to become a dietary staple in both North & South America. Columbus brought corn to Europe where it was known as Indian corn or maize; the word maize was derived from a West Indian word. Corn itself was a generic term meaning grain or grainlike objects, for instance corned beef was named after the salt corns (crystals), used to preserve the meat. In England, corn is used to describe the most important crop in a particular location, so it could be taken to mean wheat or barley, indeed if you look at a packet of corn flour, very often it is not made from corn at all, an important consideration for celiacs - wheat intolerant people.

There are five different types of corn and all were known to native Americans before it spread out all over the world. The first type is a staple of movie goers, pop corn and it's close companion flint corn, both of which have a high protein content, along with hard rather than waxy starch. Dent corn has a localized deposit of waxy starch, which produces a depression or dent at the end of the kernel when dried. Flour corn has little protein and mostly waxy starch and is typically grown by native Americans and what we know today as Indian corn are the flour & flint varieties with variegated kernels. Finally, there is sweet corn, so called because it stores more sugar than starch, though once picked the sugar starts to convert to starch and so should be consumed quickly after picking.

One thing that followed corn all around the world was corn sickness or pellagra, characterized by red skin lesions, diarrhea, weakness, mental confusion, and in extreme cases a slow mental and physical degeneration. This was pretty much unknown where corn was indigenous, for the native Americans remarkably developed a way to process corn by treating it with an alkaline solution, thereby releasing essential amino acids, thus avoiding pellagra. Who said our ancestors weren't sophisticated?!!

There are countless preparations for sweet corn, undoubtedly the easiest and one of the nicest ways is to simply boil, steam or microwave corn cobs, then spread them with a little butter, a dish that says summer days. Corn can be grilled, baked and barbecued and topped with a variety of flavourings, a friend of mine swears by lime juice and salt. When the months get a little cooler and good corn is still available, here is a great way to prepare it. This goes well with roast chicken or turkey. Just like a potato gratin, it is sinfully rich.

Corn Pudding

4 cobs corn
3 eggs, whisked
500 ml (1 pt) single cream
30 g (1 oz) melted butter
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 teaspoon salt
fresh ground white pepper

Strip the leaves and silk from the cobs and cut the kernels off into a bowl. Using the blunt edge of the knife scrape hard along the cobs to release the corn milk into the bowl. Mix in the other ingredients and pour into a baking dish. Place the dish in a 180 c (350 f) oven for about 45 minutes or until set.
  posted at 10:15 am

At 12:22 pm, Blogger Ruth said...

Sorry about the rough day - I'm sure tomorrow will be better. The lesson on corn though, was fascinating.

Thanks for sharing and even better, contributing to WHB. I'll be posting the roundup on Monday.

At 10:14 am, Blogger Shell said...

due to what is clearly an extended attack of pellagra i have fallen "sinfully" (what a great adjective that is) behind in my reading of you *eek ... i'm sorry but i really, really enjoyed your bad morning .. oh .. that doesn't sound too lovely of me does it ... you know what i mean! Superbly written ... *huge grin*

At 2:53 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi ruth, my day did get better, it just seems that when you get out of the wrong side of the bed, there's nothing else for it.

Hi shell, It's okay, I wanted someone to have some pleasure from my morning. Sinfull is the only way to describe anything with 1/2 litre cream.

At 10:58 am, Blogger sher said...

Well, that was a great post! Loved reading all about corn. And corn pudding is food of the gods.

At 12:10 pm, Blogger Kalyn said...

I'm glad things got better. Luckily I have a fabulous coffee machine that turns itself on, grinds the beans, and brews the coffee about 10 minutes before I have to get up or I can't imagine how I could cope. Hearing instructions without benefit of caffeine could be quite dangerous.

Didn't kow much if any of this about corn and I always kind of wondered why they called it *sweet corn*. Great post.

At 6:12 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi sher, thanks for that and yes, corn pudding is really great.

Hi kalyn, I've never thought about myself being dangerous first thing in the morning, but maybe it's time for a rethink! Thanks for your kind words.


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