In South Africa, we have only recently started eating corn. When I was a child the streets of suburban Johannesburg rang to the shrill sounds of “Mielies… Green Mielieeeeeees!” And though it certainly was not melodiously beautiful, it was sweet music to my ears for it carried the promise of green mielies for supper. Green mielies are white (just go with me) and what we called sweetcorn is yellow – the sweeter and juicier variety. Anyhow…nowadays we seem to eat a lot more sweetcorn than we did before and sadly our streets mourn the call of the Green Mielie ladies. But I have to say I love buttery sweetcorn devoured off the cob, albeit without the same glow of nostalgia.
We have friends who are at least as passionate about food as we are! It is a great treat to be invited to the Hilburns’ for dinner – you are sure to eat something quite special. As you know, I have a particular fondness for humble, simple food and that is why I remember the mieliebread Megan made with such fondness. The recipe could not be simpler. I thought about making it after making the caldo verde, as the Portuguese like to serve it with a cornbread called Broa. Because of my intense distrust of GM, I have opted for using non-GM polenta instead of mieliemeel and have used fresh corn off the cob instead of tinned (to show off our beautiful produce). I guess it could be said that I should call it cornbread, but I’m a South African meisie speaking of nostalgia. This mieliebread is nothing like broa, but it is soothingly – humbly – delicious!
1 cup polenta
1½ cups sweetcorn off the cob
2t baking powder
2Tbl butter, melted
½ t salt
Megan uses a lovely big bowl – I like that, but use a large loaf tin if you must. Butter it thoroughly.
Blend 1 cup of the kernels with the eggs and melted butter until you have a good, runny, mostly smooth pulp. Mix all your dry ingredients in a bowl, including your whole kernels, then add your pulp and mix well until you have a smooth batter. Because we are using sweetcorn, it may be quite runny – some people like to use a slice of bread to soak up the excess liquid, but I prefer to just cook it a little longer until the liquid has cooked away.
Pour your batter into your greased bowl and cover with greased foil or clingfilm and tie securely with string or a strong rubber band. Put it in a large enough pot and fill with water to about halfway up the bowl. A pasta pot works well. Steam on a medium-high heat for at least 1½ hours, remember it depends on how moist the mixture is. Check your water level every 30 mins – you don’t want the pot to run dry – and top up with boiling water when necessary. At the end of 1½ hours check to see if your bread is cooked by inserting a skewer. It should come out clean. If not, cook a little longer, some like to cook it for as long as 2-3 hours. Don’t overdo it now! When it is done, carefully remove from pot and allow to cool slightly before turning it out on to your serving plate.
Tuck in while it’s hot so your butter can soak all the way through! Some people like this with jam. Just give me lashings of the best butter you can find! By all means serve it with a soup or stew or as a delicious wheat free bread at a braai – just make it. You’ll see how humble fare can keep you coming back for more!