Saturday, June 4, 2011
Buttermilk & Sage Cornbread
There were a few reasons this cornbread recipe came to be. I guess it all started with me being at home sick with a nasty head cold and in need of comfort food. The core of this recipe is the skillet cornbread recipe my Texan Uncle Chip bequeathed me (it was his mother Bonny's recipe) along with my cast-iron skillet, which is only ever used for cornbread and is never, ever washed - only wiped cleaned, oiled and then returned to the cupboard. So, given my infirmity, I decided a steaming hot slab of cornbread, fresh from the oven and slathered in butter was just what the doctor ordered.
Then my friends, Matt-in-the-Hat and the Divine Ms R, decided to bring the dinner to me and my couch (which, in a side note, is an excellent way to make a girl feel better, especially if it also involves watching some West Wing while eating the aforementioned dinner that has been brought to your door). As a result, I adapted my Great Aunt Bonny's Texan cornbread recipe to make it gluten-free for Mr M to enjoy, and at the last minute decided to add in a little of my homegrown sage to jazz it up a little.
The great part about this cornbread recipe is that you can add things like sage, or jalapeno chillies, or sliced spring onions, or just keep it simple, stupid. I also happened to have some buttermilk left over from last weekend's foray into Coconut Cupcakes, which I threw into the mix. It produced a light, moist cornbread and, while not strictly essential - you could just use milk to thin out the batter - the buttermilk really added a lot to the final, moist result.
Finally, although I used a gluten-free self-raising flour (one of the new gluten-free direct substitutes now on the market), this recipe is just as good with plain old normal self-raising flour! In Australia, you generally can't get the kind of stone-ground cornmeal used in the US for cornbread, so just use polenta instead. I recommend scarfing this down straight out of the oven, either as a snack on it's own or as a side-dish to sop up the gravy from down home chicken and dumplings or slow-cooker casserole.
Buttermilk & Sage Cornbread
- 1 1/2 cup cornmeal (or polenta)
- 1 1/2 cup self-raising flour (or gluten-free self-raising flour)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage leaves
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups buttermilk
- some extra milk if thinning out is required (approx 2 tablespoons)
- 50 grams melted butter for the batter
- 50 grams butter for the skillet
First step - preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius (if not fan forced, preheat to 200 degrees) and put in your skillet to heat up. Your skillet should be heavy, preferably cast iron, pre-oiled and have the kind of handle that is not going to melt in the oven.
Next, in a large bowl use a whisk to combine your cornmeal, flour (the gluten-free stuff is quite powdery, so use an apron!), sugar and salt. Fold through the chopped sage.
In a separate small bowl, whisk your eggs and slowly add the melted butter, whisking all the time to ensure the hot butter doesn't cook the eggs. Now, make a well in the centre of the dried ingredients and add the egg mix. Use a wooden spoon to combine, but it will look pretty "gluggy". Next, add the buttermilk one half-cup at a time. The batter needs to be at a pouring consistency, so add in the milk if necessary one tablespoon at a time, until it looks thick but pourable.
Now, take a moment to add the butter to your sizzling hot skillet - it should melt pretty quickly. Swirl it around to make sure it coats the skillet, then add it back into the oven for about a minute.
When the butter is melted (but not burned!), pour in the batter, which should sizzle as it hits the cast-iron. Pop it back in the oven and bake until it's risen and golden brown on top - around 20-30 minutes.
Slice immediately and serve piping hot with melting butter.