Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Corn and Zucchini Custard

The ancients say that humiliation is good for the soul. With four chickens free ranging in our garden, humiliation is never more than a careless step away. Turn your head to chat with grandpa, and whoops! you're shooting along the path on a streak of chicken poo. In a more organised form of humiliation, which I try to think of as a spiritual discipline, every night I don thick gloves, grab a little shovel and a decommissioned saucepan, and spend ten minutes collecting the daily offering to add to the compost heap. Mosquitoes nipping at my ankles, hands reaching for the next little turd, I reflect on motherhood, housework, ego, humility... and fresh eggs.

Our hens are productive in more ways than one; and so, we eat a lot of eggs. What follows is a puffy eggy sort of thing, fortified with breadcrumbs. The zucchini provides a mild backdrop to the little explosions of flavour from the corn and the herbs. Served with a ready-made chutney or perhaps a thin tomato sauce, this is a lovely meal indeed.

The original recipe, by Deborah Madison, calls for cream. Too rich for my palate, I make it with milk instead. The custard still sets beautifully, and is a little lighter to eat. Leftovers are good the next day fried with a slice or two of ham.

Corn and Zucchini Custard

- 500g zucchini
- 1 medium onion, diced small
- 4 ears corn
- 2 tbs butter
- ½ cup parsley and/or basil, chopped
- ¼ cup vermouth or white wine
- 5 eggs
- ⅔ cup milk
- 120g grated cheese (a handful each of cheddar and parmesan is good)
- ⅔ cup fine breadcrumbs

Coarsely grate the zucchini. Toss with a little salt, and leave it to drain in a colander for half an hour. Squeeze out any excess moisture with your hands or press it in a tea towel. Remove the kernels from the cobs of corn by holding the ears upright on a board, and slicing downwards with a sharp heavy knife.

Melt the butter in a wide skillet, and add the onion. Sauté until soft. Add the corn, zucchini, and herbs, and cook for a minute or two. Add the vermouth or white wine, cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook for a few minutes, then remove the lid and cook until the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave for a few minutes to cool.

Beat the eggs and add the milk. Add the vegetables and the cheese, and mix well.

Heat the oven to 160°C. Butter a 1.5 litre mold (I use a round baking dish 21cm in diameter with slightly tapering sides). Sprinkle the mold generously with breadcrumbs, then toss any remaining breadcrumbs into the custard and mix well. Pour the custard into the mold, and bake for about an hour or until puffed and golden.

Remove the custard from the oven and allow it to rest for several minutes. Run a flexible knife around the edge, and flip onto a large plate. Serve in wedges, with a tomato sauce or a chutney on the side. Leftovers can be fried or grilled the next day.

Adapted from a recipe in The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison.

(Local: zucchini, corn, onion, parsley, basil, eggs. Not local: butter, vermouth, milk, cheese, breadcrumbs.)

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