09 May 2008

All topsy-turvy

After almost 20 years of living in Northern Europe, Chefette’s internal culinary calendar was pretty much set in stone. Different months each had their respective treasures to be awaited, craved and devoured. May meant crisp and tender spears of English asparagus. August meant the start of greengage plums and juicy wild blackberries. October meant sweet-fleshed pumpkins and earthy wild mushrooms.

Here in Bermuda, a sub-tropical climate in the middle of the Gulf Stream, it’s all gone topsy-turvy. Loads of vegetables – like the local pumpkins – don’t seem to have a season at all. They’re on some kind of perpetual harvest all year round. Other bits seem to come at completely the “wrong” time, like strawberries in March.

For a while, this mixup of the seasons had me a bit freaked out. But I’ve come to realise that it can be a good thing. I’ve returned to an age of innocence, when everything’s new and unexpected.

New season’s sweetcorn
Imagine my unadorned delight when I saw the first sweetcorn of the season over at the Sea Swept Farm stand at Barnes Corner on Wednesday. I hadn’t been expecting it, but I had to buy it there and then. I cooked it on the grill with an ancho-lime butter, then cut the kernels off the cob to use in a sweetcorn and tomato salsa. Mmmmm.

Grilled sweetcorn with ancho-lime butter

80g unsalted butter
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
½ tsp ancho chile powder *
6 ears of sweetcorn in their husks, freshest possible

* To make ancho chile powder: Dry some ancho chilies thoroughly in a low oven, then allow to cool. Grind them to a fine powder in a coffee grinder or spice mill. This powder keeps well for a couple of months in an airtight jar.

1. Preheat your gas grill on the highest setting (or ignite charcoal if using a charcoal grill).
2. Gently peel back the husks from the ears of corn, but leave them attached to the ears. Remove all the silk. Soak the husks in a bowl of cold water for c. 10 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, make the ancho-lime butter. Allow the butter to soften to the point where it is pliable, but not greasy. Cream the butter with a wooden spoon. Add the lime zest, ancho chile powder, and a generous seasoning of S&P juice, and combine thoroughly. Finish by mixing in as much of the lime juice as the butter will absorb.
4. Remove the husks from the soaking water, and lay on a baking tray. Use a bit of kitchen paper to make sure the kernels of corn are dry. Then, using your fingers, smear a generous wodge of butter evenly over each ear of corn. Fold back the husks, and tie into place with bits of string.
5. Grill for around 15 minutes, turning regularly. It may take a bit longer, depending on how thick are the husks. When the outer husks are starting to become charred, the corn should be done.
6. Carefully remove the husks and serve.

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