CLAIRE'S MEDITERRANEAN CORN BREAD
A Cook's Guide to Grains by Jenni Muir
White wine is the brow-raising ingredient in this unusually flavoured corn bread from my friend Claire Clifton, who began making it regularly after reading an article by British food writer Simone Sekers. For those with a taste for things salty and piquant, people who feel their 'downfall' is olives or cheese, this is a treat along the lines of a savoury Mediterranean cake. It makes a great teatime snack or soup and salad accompaniment, and could be served as part of a bread basket for an Italian meal. The leftovers are super when toasted.
• 250g / 1 2/3 cups fine cornmeal
• 3 tsp baking powder
• 4 eggs, beaten
• 200ml / 7/8 cup olive oil, plus extra for greasing
• 200ml / 7/8 cup white wine
• 150g / 1 cup pitted sliced olives
• 50g / 1/2 cup pine kernels
• 3 tbsp chopped roasted bell peppers or sun-dried tomatoes
Heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas 6 and lightly oil a 23cm/9in spring-clip cake tin. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cornmeal and baking powder and make a well in the centre.
Using a whisk, beat in the eggs. Combine the oil and wine in a jug, then whisk the mixture into the batter. Fold in the olives, pine kernels and roasted bell peppers or sun-dried tomatoes until well distributed.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 1 1/4 hours or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Serve warm.
• The assumption is that you are drawing on a larder containing jars of the preserved antipasto items that are so popular today and easy to buy ready-made. You could, if necessary, roast your own peppers. If you are using sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, remember to pat them dry. If they are not packed in oil, reconstitute them in hot water, rinsing well to remove any excess salt.
• You can mix in pretty much whatever flavourings you like - chillies, capers, chopped ham, cheese, anchovies, walnuts - but keep the total weight of added ingredients to 250g/9oz and restrict any pungent items such as capers or anchovies to very small proportions. Three would sensibly be the maximum number of flavourings to add, and 2 (rather than being a compromise) is very good.
• I have only made this with cornmeal but Claire has used a mixture of cornmeal and wheat flour, and has also produced a wholewheat version that she reports was satisfyingly light. Given the Mediterranean flavourings featured, yellow cornmeal would perhaps be the colour of choice, but it doesn't really matter.