I found myself giddy as a schoolgirl a few days ago while at the grocery store. I found cornmeal. Cornmeal!
At the risk of sounding like I live in the boondocks with no running water, I had never seen cornmeal before and if I did, I didn’t notice. I brought a box home and proceeded to raid the Internet for yummy cornmeal recipes. One thing led to another and I decided corn muffins were a good place to start. And if I were to make corn muffins they had to be like Kenny Rogers’ – crusty on the outside and soft inside with real corn kernels, they’re my favorite thing on their menu!
I realize that the Internet is vaster and wider than I could ever grasp but it still amazes me when I find other people searching or blogging about the same things I’m wondering about. I found this recipe on this really fun blog and it’s by a Filipina lady to boot! I don’t know, I got a kick out of that. Like seeing the words ‘manila envelope’ while reading something by an American author. Or hearing Nigella Lawson say ‘gochujang’.
I also found a chilli con carne recipe that I thought would go well with my soon-to-materialize corn muffins. Schoolgirl mode!
I had to make some minor changes based on the ingredients available to me. I made the chilli first because I wanted it to sit and develop while the corn muffins were baking. For the chilli con carne, you’ll need:
2 T olive oil
2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1 labuyo (bird’s eye chili)
1 t paprika
1 t ground cumin
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (or 1 t chili powder)
500 g lean ground beef
1 beef stock cube
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 t dried marjoram
2 squares dark chocolate
2 T tomato paste
1 420 g can black beans (or red kidney beans)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1. Rinse the beans and leave on a strainer to drain. Chop the onions and mince the garlic. Cut the labuyo lengthwise and discard the seeds and membrane. Chop finely. If you don’t mind the extra heat, you can skip the deseeding and discarding and just go straight to chopping up the labuyo. Remember not to rub your eyes from this point onwards. Heat the oil in a large pot. When the oil is ready, add in the onions and cook until soft and slightly translucent.
2. Add in minced garlic, chopped labuyo, chopped chipotle (or chili powder), ground cumin and paprika. Give everything a good stir and let cook for about 5 minutes.
3. Turn up the heat to prepare your pot for the ground beef – the pot should sizzle when the beef hits it. We want the beef to brown, not steam. Add in the ground beef and stir to cook until there are no pink spots and they’re evenly broken up.
4. While the beef is cooking, dissolve the beef cube in 300 mL of hot water. When the beef is done, add in the beef stock along with the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, dried marjoram, salt and pepper. Stir to mix everything well and bring to a boil. When it starts to boil, turn down the heat and cover the pot. Let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add more water if it starts to dry out.
5. When it’s done simmering, throw in some dark chocolate! Oh how fun! I can imagine how the chocolate would deepen the flavor with a subtle sweetness.
6. Take your drained beans and add them into the pot. Stir and bring to a gentle boil for 10 minutes without the lid. Add more water if it starts to dry up again and adjust seasoning accordingly (an observation: it gets saltier as it sits). And we’re done! Turn off the heat, cover and let sit while we get to our corn muffins!
For the corn muffins a la Kenny Rogers, you’ll need:
1/2 cup softened butter
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup honey
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1 420 g can whole corn kernels
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C/355 F. Drain the corn kernels on a strainer. Whisk the butter, sugar, honey and eggs in a large mixing bowl. See how my mixture is kinda streaky? Yeah. I forgot about the white sugar which I kept in my fridge. Butter is so sensitive to changes in temperature that the cold sugar was enough to harden the softened butter somewhat. Moral of the story: make sure all ingredients are at room temperature. Not that it was gonna stop me at this point.
2. I got too excited about the corn in my corn muffins and immediately added them here when they should’ve been folded in in the end. I’ll live.
3. Add in the flour, cornmeal, salt and baking powder. Whisk together while adding in the milk little by little.
4. Grease your muffin pan. A tip I learned from watching Willie Harcourt-Cooze’s show is to use the inside of your butter wrapper to grease your pan/dish – nothing goes to waste! But that’s of course if said wrapper is on its way to the bin. I happened to have this mini muffin pan, the perfect size! Fill them up all the way. Once filled, tap the pan on the counter a couple times to help the muffin mixture set.
5. Bake for 25 minutes and then oh em gee, beautiful corn muffins!
Garnish the chilli with grated cheddar cheese (sour cream, cilantro if you have them) and serve with freshly baked corn muffins a la Kenny Rogers.
These corn muffins are very good but they’re not quite Kenny Rogers corn muffins. Or has it been too long since I had them? I wish they were coarser, the texture of the cornmeal is so nice! I’d really like to make a version with more cornmeal than flour so I’m gonna have to keep experimenting on this one. I know I set out all excited about the corn muffins but it was the chilli that pleasantly surprised me. Easy, flavorful and delicious, I’ll be making more of it for sure. What a beautiful meal!
Fun Food Fact: Chili cuts the bitterness in chocolate and brings out its flavors making the two a fabulous pairing.