Sunday, December 4, 2011

Soul Kitchen

I love the idea of soul food. Food that is easy and comforting with no airs and graces. When I think of soul food, I think of vibrant flavours, simple ingredients and food that is cooked with love. To me, nothing captures the essence of soul food more than cornbread. Eaten warm with butter, or used to soak up the gravy from some gorgeous southern delicacy there are lots of different versions, but I've never eaten cornbread I didn't like!

I have had a lifelong love affair with cornbread and I realised that I had yet to include it here at Gourmet Goddess, so this week I decided I would bring you my version of the soul food classic. It is so easy to make and tastes fabulous. I like my cornbread with a generous amount of spring onion in it (scallions if you come from the USA) but you could also use chilli or other fresh herbs if you wanted to. The recipe is very forgiving, so feel free to experiment.

Freshly baked cornbread

Whilst channelling my inner southern soul mama I was inspired to take it a step further and do a dish to serve with my freshly baked cornbread - buttermilk chicken. Now traditionally buttermilk chicken is deep fried and really heavy on the fat and oil (traditionally lard would have been used) but I thought I would do a version that will hopefully keep us all out of the cardiac ward for the time being! The chicken is marinated in the buttermilk, which makes it super succulent - and it is then rubbed in a lovely aromatic spice mix and oven roasted.

Buttermilk is a by product of butter making and is used in lots of recipes, particularly in the Southern American cooking. Despite the name, it is really low in fat and adds a lovely acidic tang to all kinds of dishes. The clever little enzymes in it also work to tenderise meat and keep it moist when cooking. Most supermarkets have buttermilk these days, so it isn't difficult to get hold of. I threw in a few tomatoes to roast while the chicken was cooking and then just drizzled some of the juices from the pan over the top to ramp up the flavour. This was a great homestyle meal that was simple to put together, with a soul food vibe.

Buttermilk Chicken
served with cornbread and roasted tomatoes
- don't forget the hot sauce!
For the chicken:
You will need:
4 Chicken Marylands (you could use chicken pieces if you wanted to)

For the marinade: 2 cups buttermilk, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/3 teaspoon ground pepper, generous pinch cayenne pepper.

For the spice rub: 1 tablespoon ground celery seed, 1 tablespoon sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/3 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 2 tablespoons olive oil.

Method: Mix all of the marinade ingredients together. Add the chicken and ensure that all of the chicken is coated in the marinade. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least an hour (overnight is fine too)

Mix all of the spice rub ingredients together in a small bowl with the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the buttermilk marinade that the chicken has been marinating in.

Preheat the oven to 200C. Remove the chicken from the buttermilk mixture and shake off any excess buttermilk. I use a paper towel to do this. Take half of the spice mixture and rub or brush it all over the chicken.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, turn the chicken over and then brush over the rest of the spice mix and allow to cook for another 15 minutes. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving. Alternatively, you could also cook this on the BBQ.

For the cornbread:
You will need: 1/2 Cup polenta (corn meal), 1 1/2 cups self raising flour, 1 tablespoon caster sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup melted butter, 3 eggs, 1 cup creamed corn, 1 cup milk, 1 cup finely sliced spring onions.

Method: Preheat the oven to 180C.

Combine the polenta, flour, sugar, cayenne, salt in a bowl and mix well.

Whisk together the butter, milk, eggs and creamed corn. Pour into the dry mixture and combine until mixed all the way through. The batter will be quite runny - that is fine. Fold through the onions.

Spoon the mixture into a greased muffin pan - I used large sized ones but you could make any size you like, just adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Bake at 180C for 15-25 minutes, depending on the size of your tin. The cornbread should pull away slightly from the pan when it is done. Please note that cornbread does not rise very much so don't be worried if it doesn't puff up the way muffins do.

Allow to cool for a few minutes before removing the cornbread from the tin.
Serve warm with butter.


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