puttin’ on the grits

Straightforward question: what’s your favourite food?

Me: ice cream and cornbread.

A while back if you’d asked this I would have frozen up and said “ummm chocolate?” but today I was sitting around daydreaming about how I might answer various questions on the offchance that some cool magazine wanted to interview me, and I managed to narrow it down to those two. Like Kenneth Parcell (“There are only two things I love in this world. Everybody and television”) I am a throw-my-arms-around-the-world kind of foodlover, but where “most edible things” is an adequate answer, cornbread and ice cream is more specific. That said, I’m also happy to call Nigella’s Chocolate Guinness Cake one of my favourite things to make. You would be too.

All this daydreaming about cornbread made me crave a slice of it like crazy. It’s just another cold, dark, early winter Wellington evening and I’ve got a sore throat. Who ya gonna call? Nigella, fool!

On Sunday night I bought a healthy, happy Waitoa Free Range chicken and roasted her up with white wine, lemons, butter and breadcrumbs. The cold leftovers in the fridge got turned into pasta last night with the roasting pan juices and golden sultanas soaked in sherry. Tonight I’m finishing off the chicken by going vaguely Mexican, inspired by a salad recipe from Nigella Express, with her cornbread on the side. Just saying it almost makes my sore throat better.

Mexican Chicken Salad

Adapted from Nigella Express


1 ripe avocado
1/2 cup sour cream (or good mayonnaise, to make this dairy-free)
juice of a lime
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and pepper to taste

Either whisk the dressing ingredients together or blitz them in a food processor.


300g shredded, cooked chicken
1 crisp apple, diced
2 spring onions, chopped
handful chopped coriander
125g shredded cos lettuce (I used cabbage)

Put all the salad ingredients in a bowl, spoon the dressing over the top.

Like a warm, buttery yellow mattress. I could actually lie down on top of it and fall asleep quite happily. Tim and I sat on either side of this, slicing off pieces and buttering them. What remains is kind of a wonky Z shaped bit of cornbread


175g cornmeal (or polenta, same diff so look for either)
125g plain flour
45g caster sugar
2 t baking powder
250ml full fat milk
1 egg
45g butter, melted
Set oven to 200 C. Grease whatever you’re using – a muffin tin, a 20cm-ish brownie tin, etc. Melt the butter. Stir in the milk and egg with a fork. Then tip in all the dry ingredients, mix till just combined – don’t worry about lumps – then pour into your tin and bake, for 20-25 minutes. I have made this with superfine cornmeal and the more granular stuff, and a mix of the two, anything is fine really although the granular stuff gives slightly more bite to your finished product.

It was such a good dinner. Even with all the crispness and coolness of the salad it worked in this colder weather, fresh flavours to wake you up on a dark evening. It’s amazingly rewarding to eat for the little effort you need to put in. You could replace the chicken with anything else – beef, tofu, chickpeas…you could leave the sour cream out of the dressing, use mayonnaise or yoghurt, double the quantities and drink it like a savoury green smoothie, whatever, really. The sour cream suits the avocado, their tanginess and richness going head to head like it’s Tekken 2 but instead of a nubile catsuited woman and the panda bear (my favourite character) engaging in combat, the flavours skip off hand in hand towards the sunset, singing in perfect harmony. I have a feeling, having just re-read that, that I gotta lay off the cough syrup before trying to blog, as it messes with my ability to throw down a decent metaphor.


Title coming atcha via: Puttin’ On The Ritz, a song that I did a choreographed and performed a tap dance to at the 1997 (1996?) Combined Schools Choir Festival. While I may not have been up to the great Fred Astaire I’m sure in my own mind, at the time, I was well on my way.

Music lately:

What You Know About Baltimore by Ogun feat Phathead from The Wire: “…and all the pieces matter” What do I know about Baltimore? Not much more than I know about, say, Fielding I guess. This song is awesome, the delivery of the titular interrogative somehow both menacing and blase at the same time. First time I heard this song I kept swivelling my head to look out the window – I swear it sounds like someone’s yelling “Laura!” in the background of the song at various points.

Buffalo Gals by the recently late Malcolm McLaren. A prosaic choice, but to be fair, I was never exactly a walking catalogue of his work. This song is sprinkled with all kinds of good things laid over a minimalist beat that was ahead of its time – thinking about how in the mid 2000s there was that trend for songs that were almost not even there at all. It must have been an exciting life he led, and while I can’t say I thought about him on a daily basis, it was sad news – he was in many ways a drop of bright red food colouring in the plain white icing of recent music history.


Next time: I have some tofu in the fridge that needs using…although if this sore throat doesn’t sort itself out it might be a steady diet of chicken soup and Canadiol expectorant. Hopefully I get better soon because it’s my birthday on Saturday. Any suggestions about what I could do? As always, April appears suddenly and I’m caught short without any cool ideas. I’ll be 24. Hopefully still young enough to be interesting, goodness knows there is probably some seven year old out there who’s writing a blog about making cupcakes while interweaving Clay Davis quotes and referencing some obscure early draft of Evita…any suggestions about how a good birthday is spent are more than welcome.

8 thoughts on “puttin’ on the grits

  1. Kay says:

    Today I bought Tahini…. for the first time. I think I'll try the tahini shortbread this week. Twentyfour! That's pretty grown up!

    Glad you are enjoying your new Mac. Can't get my head around them myself – still haven't even come to grips with tahini.


  2. Hannah says:

    I hope you feel better soon! And thank you for being in sync with ym subconscious mind – when I was in the States in Dec/Jan I fell in love (again) with cornbread, but I'd forgotten about it amongst the pastry and gelato of Europe.

    Ta-Da, Laura to the rescue! (Nigella gets enough credit already, my thanks goes to you.)


  3. alana says:

    Cornbread. Good answer. It's one half of my answer to that question too. Other half is probably pizza. Cornbread and chilli. Nom nom nom. Good work! I like the recipe for it too.


  4. millie mirepoix says:

    Favourite food? Japanese rice, miso soup, any variation thereof. BUT growing up I was a cornbread fiend and it is still up there on my top 10 list. Plus it's perfect for this strange, transition-y season – good with summer foods and heartier winter stuff. Winner!

    Hope you feel better!


  5. Anonymous says:

    Kiaora! Clicked through from Sugar Bar Diva's RT cos it said Kiwi and I'm homesick…Cute blog! Fave food – hm, cornbread is pretty good but might have to give in to my Japanese side and say miso over rice.


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