Cymbeline, Act 3, Scene 4, Lines 136-7. By William Shakespeare.
The three weeks of unalloyed golden heat have come to an abrupt end. And for some, not a moment too soon.
This was a most un-British of heatwaves: lasting, parching, predictable. We are used to our heatwaves coming in waves – crashing into the working week then rolling away by the week’s end, leaving only plant-shredding hailstones and blown over garden furniture. We are conditioned by years of experience to never expect a day of unbroken sunshine, never mind weeks of the stuff. And so when it happens, we are unsettled and disoriented. You see us bumbling about in our hastily-bought tank tops and shorts, fretting about whether or not to tuck a brolly in our bag (is it tempting fate not to? Will the heaven’s open and it be all our fault?). We smile a lot too. Or is that squinting at the sight of the light that burns?
We are usually happy enough leaving the house with all manner of all-weather gear, knowing that even if we set out under a canopy of brightest blue, by lunchtime or so we will be running for shelter and eating our soggy picnic in the humid fug of our car. Or on the bus with all of the other damp people. But all this sunshine? That’s what we go abroad for. That’s why Britons are so incredibly well-travelled. We feel ineffably cheated if we leave during a Great British heatwave. We want to know that while we are away it has been wet and windy at home, with perhaps a few folk winched from a flooded campsite. Money well spent.
Sunshine and showers is the usual mantra of the weather ‘forecasters’ here. For most, that’s as it should be. And now that the British heatwave has officially ended – although it is still very warm and only a little floody – we can all relax and stop trying so very hard to wring every bit of joy out the sun. It’s just too bl**dy tiring.
The return of normality should not of course mean the end of summer eating. Oh no. I hear that the summer crops are shooting up so rapidly that you can hear some of them growing. My source may exaggerate slightly, but one of the crops that has certainly done well this year is corn. Although, unlike the US, the UK does not grow sweetcorn as a main crop, what we do grow is beautifully sweet and much appreciated for its tenderness.
Driving through the twisty roads in Ayrshire last weekend I was surprised to see fields of tell-tale tassles sweep by. If we hadn’t been in a hurry to catch a ferry to Arran I would’ve stopped to snap a few photos. It was beautiful. It also made me a tad homesick and nostalgic. I have vivid memories of childhood summers spent shucking ears and ears of SIlver Queen corn with my sister Julie and my beloved Mimi. In the stultifying heat of a late summer in Tennessee, cicadas wheezing and cats lolling under bushes, we would yank down the papery husks to reveal tooth-white kernels, occasionally piercing them with a clumsy fingernail, letting out the creamy, sweet milk. I don’t ever recall my Mimi making corn fritters like the ones here. I do remember them creamed and done up with flour and a little sugar then having them like pancakes – drowned in Aunt Jemima, or better yet slathered with local sweet sorghum syrup (NOT sorghum molasses). Always with super-crisp, shattering Oscar Meyer bacon. Never with guacamole.
This simple recipe for smoky corn fritters will do for any meal. It is basically corn, corn meal, soft-whipped egg whites and oil. I’ve added a touch of chipotle, some courgette and spring onions but that’s really all there is to it.
I wish I could make them with Tennessee corn, but the British corn is great and starting to come into the markets from the south already. Although they are a summery treat, you can make these corn fritters year-round with frozen corn.
The intense, sleep-zapping heat has nearly gone, and left in its place a bounteous summer harvest. So maybe we can have the same again next year. Same time, same place?
Track of the Week: All The Sun That Shines by Peaking Lights (geddit it?)
The best time to make these crunchy, sweet and smoky little cakes is in the late summer, when corn is at its best (and abundant and cheap). Otherwise, rootle about in your freezer for some frozen corn, defrosting and patting dry before using. Please don’t settle for tinned sweetcorn – it’s too soggy by half, and has a weird chemically sweetness when fried up (at least I think so). You will see that I have only introduced the barest of bindings – 3 egg whites and a little polenta/cornmeal. Use whole egg (2 medium), and a little more polenta or flour if you like: it’s a flexible recipe and will be good any way you adapt it. You can even whiz up some of the corn to make it more ‘cakey’ but we like it all with whole kernels.
These corn fritters make a beautiful late summer breakfast, lunch or light supper with some grilled bacon or thinly sliced and dry-fried ham. Vegetarians, this is brill with feta, goats cheese or with the guacamole and herb-rolled labneh, as I have here. You can also open-freeze then foil-wrap the cooked cakes, reheating in a medium oven until hot through.
Makes about 16 fritters (serves up to 8 people)
3 egg whites OR 2 medium eggs
1. Heat the teaspoon of oil in a large sauté pan. Add the corn, courgette, spring onions, chipotle flakes, and pinch of salt. Gently fry until the vegetables are slightly soft – about three minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Pop the cooked vegetables into a mixing bowl and let cool a couple of minutes. Add the polenta and flour; stir to combine.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold this lightly into the corn mixture.
4. Wipe clean the sauté pan and heat to medium; add enough oil to lightly coat the base. When hot enough to make a flick of water sizzle, add 2 slightly heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the pan, pressing down lightly to flatten. Continue until you have four or five in the pan, with enough room around them to flip them easily. Let them cook for about 3 minutes on the one side. Flip and cook for about 2 more minutes, or until both sides are deep golden. Lift the fritters to a plate lined with kitchen roll to mop up the oil.
5. Add more oil as needed and carry on until you have cooked all of the batter into fritters.
Serve with guacamole (below), sweet chilli sauce, bacon or even just a nice green salad.
Storage: Leftovers can be heated in the oven over the next day or two. Or, cool fritters on the day to store in the freezer and use within one month.
This is a very straight-forward version that you can jazz up with the suggestions that follow the recipe.
Plenty of salt and pepper
Cut open and half the avocados, removing the stone. Use a spoon to scoop out the bright green and creamy flesh into a sturdy bowl; mash roughly with a fork. Stir in everything but the salt and pepper; taste. Season with salt and pepper, adding more lime if you care to. Serve immediately.
Options: chipotle flakes or a little chipotle in adobo sauce (mashed then added); a good pinch of ground cumin; black beans (roughly mashed); chopped radishes or jicama; roasted cherry tomatoes or semi-dried tomatoes (in which case, don’t add salt to the guacamole); basil or fresh oregano. What else would you add in?
Nutrition: depending on the colour of your corn – yellow, blue, white, red, purple – you can benefit from an array of colour-bound phytochemicals. The traditional yellow corn has an abundance of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. It is also a super fiber choice, supporting lower-bowel health and has an array of B vitamins, including B1, B5 and folic acid. For more health benefits as well as history, choosing, storage and preparation tips, see WHFoods.com.
More Corn Recipes:
Fresh Confetti Corn via Mark at Cookin’ W/ Luv
From Food To Glow: