Cheddar and Green Chilli Cornbread Daffodil Soup

Everyone’s cooking and baking again, and posting their stories online, which is lovely to see.
For professional chefs, this has been a stressful time, not being able to cook and feed people every day (it’s not just a day job, it’s basically a calling). With just two of us at home during lockdown, I’ve had to fight the urge to keep creating loads of dishes that we just can’t eat. The freezers are full, and there really is only so much one can eat in a day. (Trust me, we’ve tried.)

I’ve been making sourdough bread for decades with my starter called Elvis (and documenting the results endlessly on Insta) and once the strong flour issue was resolved I started baking bread for friends and neighbours, which has scratched the itch somewhat.

Then, seeing the lovely cheese and chilli cornbread recipe posted by Rosalind, the founder of Cookery School at Little Portland Street reminded me that I have a savoury muffin recipe which I used to bake as a loaf for corporate lunches. The best way to describe it is an all-in-one quiche, with the pastry ingredients incorporated into the mix.

It makes a super savoury flavoured bread, and the options for personalising it are endless. It’s great served with cheese and salad, with an egg on top or as a sandwich.

Many quick bakes use a raising agent such as baking powder or bicarbonate of soda and some acidic dairy – buttermilk, yoghurt or sour cream, or even a thimbleful of cider vinegar – which react together to make the mix rise beautifully in the oven.

There are two golden rules to this method, both of which work to the advantage of the impatient cook and hungry hordes:

  1. Don’t overmix the batter (5 or 6 quick folds and twists to combine the wet and dry ingredients);
  2. Get it into the oven pronto, as the reaction begins the minute the acid and alkali meet.

Best eaten warm, this won’t hang around on the bread board for long, although in the unlikely event that there is some left it is also great toasted. See below for ideas to switch it up.

This can also be baked as a tray of muffins and popped in the freezer for defrosting as required.

In this instance I am following the Cookery School recipe but with substitutions as we’re all having to raid lockdown larder ingredients and not dash to the corner shop for top-ups.

I had a block of mature cheddar from a recent meat delivery (Doug and John Ashby, my lovely wholesale butchers – a family business established in Bermondsey in 1950 – is now delivering to residential addresses in London and also does cheese, eggs and charcuterie) which was perfect for the cheesy element, but any strong cheese would work.

We had a big bunch of parsley from my local Highbury greengrocers, so much more satisfying than a sweaty 70g plastic pouch from the supermarket, and some chives and fresh green chilli. The original recipe suggests smoked paprika and dried chilli flakes, as well as halved cherry tomatoes to decorate the top. I substituted a heaped teaspoon of English mustard powder and saved the tomatoes for another day.

I toyed with the idea of adding some smoked lardons from my home-made bacon stash (the subject of a future post) but resisted. Maybe next time? (It can always be served on the side.)

Other great combinations using the base wet/dry recipe: feta, sun-dried tomato and olive / Parmesan and spinach (steamed and squeezed to remove all the moisture) / half a jar of pesto and roasted red peppers / caramelised onion, thyme and goat cheese.

Cheddar and Green Chilli Cornbread Daffodil Soup
Cheddar and Green Chilli Cornbread Daffodil Soup

Cheddar and chilli cornbread

(Makes 10 muffins or 10 generous slices)

Ingredients

  • 170g plain flour (you can substitute gluten-free if required)
  • 170g fine cornmeal
  • 3 heaped teaspoons baking powder
  • .5 teaspoon salt
  • 1 heaped teaspoon English mustard powder
  • 2 green chillis, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 cup of chopped green herbs – I used parsley and chives, but you could use oregano, thyme etc (if using dried herbs then just a teaspoon of each)
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g (roughly 1 cup) grated mature cheddar cheese
  • 200ml whole milk
  • 200ml Greek yoghurt or buttermilk
  • 50ml sunflower or rapeseed oil

The Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200C.
  2. Grease and flour 10 holes in a 12-hole muffin tin or a 2lb (900g) loaf tin, or line with paper cases.
  3. Place the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
  4. Add the mustard powder, chopped chilli, herbs and cheese to the dry ingredients. Mix well.
  5. Place the milk and yoghurt, oil and eggs in another bowl and beat together.
  6. Pour the wet mixture over the dry ingredients and mix as quickly as possible. Do not over-mix.
  7. Divide the mixture between the prepared muffin or loaf tin.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 15-18 minutes (muffins) or 30-40 minutes (loaf) until golden brown.I started my loaf at 200C for 20 minutes and then turned it down to 180C for another 20.Test with a skewer to see if it’s done, or knock the base which should sound hollow.

My serving suggestion is a thick, warm slice with a couple of rashers of bacon and a poached egg.

Or you could soak a slice or two in beaten egg and fry in butter, as a version of French toast (maple syrup optional).

It would also make a fab toasted sandwich with sliced tomato and cheese.

Bon appetit!