Over the past few months, as the amount of cooking being done at home has gone up, we have also found ourselves looking for new recipes, in an effort to make the weekly menu plan more interesting. Particularly recipes for great side dishes as options to rice or chapati.

In one of these recipe searches, I landed on a recipe for Brown Butter Skillet Cornbread by Melissa Clark on the NYT Cooking app. The words ‘brown butter’ and ‘cornbread’ immediately caught my attention! Who doesn’t enjoy the nutty flavour of brown butter, especially if you have memories of mom making ghee at home and then enjoying some of the ghee residue or ‘beri’ with a hot chapati. I’m also a fan of makki di roti, so anything with cornmeal also catches my attention. And when these two come together in a recipe, how can you resist trying it?

I’ve made this 3 times now. The first time I followed the recipe as is to make sure that I got it right. The second time I added chopped methi (fenugreek leaves), as I thought that would be a great addition and it was! And the third time I experimented with spring onions. The methi combination was the best, as the spring onions didn’t really retain much flavour after cooking.

Here is the recipe which I have halved and slightly modified from the original one on NYT Cooking. This is good for 3-4 people.

Ingredients

  • 85g butter
  • 1/2 cup honey (original recipe has maple syrup)
  • 265ml buttermilk
  • 2 eggs
  • 90g fine yellow cornmeal
  • 30g whole wheat flour
  • 30g all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tbsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt (and extra as per taste)
  • 1 cup chopped methi leaves
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder or paprika (optional)

Method

Heat oven to 190℃. Sift the cornmeal, wheat flour, all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt and chilli powder (if using) into a bowl and keep aside.

Take a medium sized cast iron pan or cast iron pot with a diameter of around 5-6 inches. Heat the cast iron pot and add the butter to it. Swirl the butter around in the pan/pot as it is melting, to coat all the sides evenly. Continue to cook the butter till it turns brown in colour and keep stirring & checking it regularly to ensure it doesn’t burn.

When you get a deep, golden brown colour, turn the heat off and pour the butter out into a medium sized mixing bowl. It’s ok for a little brown butter to stay back in the pan/vessel as we will use it to cook the cornbread in the oven.

Add the honey to the mixture while it is still hot and mix it in. Let this cool a little bit and then add the buttermilk. Once the butter-honey-buttermilk batter is completely cool, add the eggs in and whisk the batter. Now add the flour mixture and mix it in. If the batter feels too thick, you can add a little buttermilk to loosen it a little bit. Finally add the methi leaves and mix them into the batter.

Ensure your cast iron pot is still relatively hot. If not, reheat it briefly on the stove. Now pour the batter into the pot and pat it down with a spoon or a spatula. Place the pot in the oven and let it bake till the top of the cornbread turns a golden brown. This should take around 25-30 mins. To check if the cornbread is done, insert a toothpick in the centre, as you would when baking a cake, and if it comes out clean your cornbread is ready. Let is cool a little in the pot/pan before removing it on to a plate and slicing it.

The cornbread is soft, and has a sweet & savoury flavour. In fact it tastes so good, especially when it is warm, that the first few slices disappear almost as soon as it cools down. It’s great on its own, especially with a glass of wine ;). And also tastes great as a side with vegetable & meat dishes, particularly a flavourful chickpea curry.

This cornbread is really simple to make and gets done in less than an hour. So it’s no surprise that I have made it so often at home! And because the recipe is so versatile, I’m sure it can take other additions, perhaps spinach or other leafy green vegetables. Definitely more to experiment with!

Priya

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