Corn or maize comes two ways: raw or dried and ground. Fresh corn harvested young is delicious raw. It’s best when it’s locally available, because after it’s picked the corn sugars start to convert to starches and loose their tenderness and sweet flavor. There are many varieties of corn and maize and we encourage you to seek out what’s prefefred by farmers where you live, and grow your own.
Fresh corn is easy to mix into simple salads, rice and even bean dishes. It’s good added to a sauce or soup, as long as you account in your seasoning for its delicate sweetness. We like to serve raw corn, sawed from the cob with a sharp chef’s knife, mixed with salt and lime and the smallest pinch of minced hot pepper. Of course, there’s also grilling or boiling the cobs whole and rolling them in butter. Enjoy corn season while it lasts, because it’s really good.
Sun-dried and powdered, corn meal and corn flour offer plenty of recipe opportunities, all of them tasty.
Corn meal is mixed into breads in anglophone West Africa. In East and Southern Africa, it is boiled into a polenta-like maize meal called ugali or pap. Firm and pliable, it makes a good starch to dip and enjoy with vegetables and sauce.
Corn flour is less common in traditional African cooking but has a place in the modern African kitchen. Corn flour is dried maize that has been ground into a fine powder. Its starches, in this state, bind easily to other foods and it is a good thickener. Corn flour added to pumpkin fritters holds the vegetable together, much like the gluten does in wheat flour.
Corn is gluten-free so it’s useful to know that cornflour can sometimes take the place of flour in cooking — but just when you’re thickening things! We haven’t tried corn flour instead of wheat flour in bechamel sauce yet, although we’re planning to.