As a teen, I discovered the wonder of books with recipes included. I remember reading about soul food and traditional cornbread was always a crucial part of the meal. Depicted as the backdrop for family bonding, soul food was a metaphor connecting generations together and recipes for items like cornbread were held to hushed secrecy. Really, it’s not hard to associate cornbread to warmth, love, and family. Despite knowing cornbread requires no yeast and is simple to execute, I was intimidated. This mindset is typical of me: give me a task that is difficult and I will find it easy. Give me something easy and I find it a challenge.
For many years, I forgot about wanting to try cornbread. I think I stashed the idea in the back of my mind because I assumed I could never master it. Like seriously?
Last year, after coming home during a cold wintery day, I smelled makki di rotis (corn flour rotis) being made. It had been snowing and I was chilled to the bone. Entering my parent’s house, the smell and sound of corn flour dough sizzling on the cast iron thava (pan), made for a heady experience. It was almost hypnotic, because the air was filled with a sweet roasted corn aroma. It brought back a flurry of unfulfilled desires about attempting to make cornbread.
Like any dish I am trying to master, I take it seriously. For the next few weeks, I tried many variations. Sugar, no sugar, white cornmeal, yellow cornmeal, flour, no flour, milk, buttermilk, and trying different flavour profiles. The final result – a mouth-watering cornbread that has layers of flavours. It’s equally delicious hot out of the oven with giant dabs of butter, a drizzle of honey, or at room temperature to be eaten with a cup of hot tea or coffee. If you happen to have leftovers, this cornbread can be transformed into scrumptious stuffing (sometimes I make it just for this purpose).
Spicy Masala Cornbread
2 ¼ cups flour
2 cups yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons white sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 2/3 cups buttermilk
2/3 cup melted butter
1 onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
4 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons rosemary, chopped
½ cup cilantro, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
2 chipotle peppers, chopped (from a can)
1 tablespoon masala
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup of cheddar cheese
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, take the melted butter and combine with the sugar. Whisk in the egg. Whisk in the baking soda, baking powder, baking soda, and buttermilk. Add salt, cornmeal, and flour.
Mix in all the additions. Mix well but do not overdo it. Add batter to a greased 8-inch baking dish take your spatula to smooth out the mixture.
Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown. Prick the center with a toothpick. It should come out clean. If not clean, continue to bake a couple of minutes at a time until the toothpick comes out clean.