If there’s one thing I’ve learned about cornbread (apart from the fact that I really really love it) it’s this: the only way to take an oven-hot slab of cornbread with a two-by-four sized slice of butter melting quietly on top and make it more fun, is to transform it into pancakes.
The mighty Nigella Lawson has this recipe for Johnnycakes in How To Be A Domestic Goddess, and while Wikipedia reckons the name of this American creation was adapted from ‘journey cakes’ I’d like to think there was an original Johnny, who wanted to blaze trails by combining the golden grittiness of cornbread with the circular fun-ness of a pancake. I was away up in Rotorua over the weekend (plus chasing the hour lost in Daylight Saving) but I managed to cobble these together without any trouble for a late lunch when I landed back in Wellington on Sunday afternoon. This recipe is forgiving – only a few Johnnycakes turned out bung, either buckling or sticking to the pan – the rest obediently slid onto the spatula and flipped over easily.
This one’s for you, generous, possibly non-existent Johnny.
From Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
- 150g fine cornmeal/polenta
- 100g plain flour
- 4 teaspoons baking powder (gotta admit I was all “really? four?” about this, and put in only three teaspoons)
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- pinch salt
- 2 eggs
- 300mls milk
- 30g butter
Stir together the dry ingredients in a bowl, then whisk in everything else till you have a thick, yellow batter (don’t worry about any small lumps.) Heat an oiled griddle or pan and drop tablespoons-ful into it. Once they’re thoroughly bubbled on top, carefully turn them over to cook on the other side. Transfer to a plate and cover with tinfoil till you’re finished.
When I was a kid I always impressed by those Disney movies where a character would have a whole stack of pancakes with butter and maple syrup on top, and then eat the stack all at once with a knife and fork. I’m sure it was Disney movies anyway, it must have happened a lot in order to stick in my brain like that… Johnnycakes are too stubby for this practice, so I unstacked them after these photos and ate them the best way – two sandwiched together with maple syrup.
While there’s absolutely nothing stopping you from making actual cornbread or actual pancakes, both being more practical in their own special ways, Johnnycakes are so good that it’s worth a bit of potentially dubious fusion (fusious?). The cornmeal gives a textural presence to the Johnnycakes which the average pancake sometimes lacks (like chewing through a foam rubber camping mattress if you’re unlucky) and you get a hearty jolt of bright yellow cheeriness without the need for pesky e-numbers, useful if you’re the sort of person who gets nervous around them. Their lightly perforated surface is an ideal conduit for ferrying lots of butter into the mouth. They’re slightly sweet and very light, and work with both savoury and sweet stuff on the plate. How To Be A Domestic Goddess is amazing – the Johnnycake recipe being just one example of the gems to be found within its pages. If you’re casually thinking about getting into baking intensely good food, you couldn’t do much better than finding this book.
Funnily enough when I last blogged about cornbread-related issues I was thinking about what my favourite food was in case I got asked in an interview with a cool magazine. A girl can dream, but nothing wrong with dreaming in a hubristically prepared kinda manner, right? Anyway this morning I had the mighty good fortune to have my first ever radio interview over the phone with Charlotte Ryan on 95bFM’s Morning Glory show. With the job I’m in I try to keep relatively non-partisan about NZ media but Morning Glory has most definitely been a favourite of mine for a while now. It was the first time I’d ever been on the radio (although I have this memory of requesting some Nirvana song from the late Channel Z years back) and I was nervous as, but Charlotte was so nice that I rambled away quite happily, sharing this recipe, my tooth-rattling nervousness while the endless intro song played through the phone forgotten. I’ll post a link to the podcast when it’s up so you can listen if you like. Just before I got the call I realised I might be asked what I love about cooking. I had this frenzied moment of panic where my mind blanked and the closest thing to a coherent sentence about why I loved cooking was “there’s so much deliciousness in this world and I like making it happen in front of me”. Luckily that specific question didn’t come up. An enormous thanks to Charlotte and bFM for having me on the show, the excitingness of it all can’t be underplayed, truly.
Late Sunday afternoon Tim and I went to Embassy theatre to see a special screening of Hair. Having seen the movie before, I knew it’s pretty painful in places (and cuts out some of my favourite tracks – it’s gratifying to know that the creators of the musical it’s based on hated it) but I love the source music intensely, and I like having the opportunity to see a musical on the big screen. One flawless moment in all the awkwardness is Cheryl Barnes singing Easy To Be Hard. Heartfelt – not just belting for the sake of it (although if I could sing I’d be melisma-ing up a storm, daily) it’s one of my favourite recordings of this track. Apparently she did it in one take.
While we’re down the flawless lady/Hair road, and I’ve probably linked to this before, but here’s Nina Simone singing Ain’t Got No/I’ve Got Life, taking two songs from Hair and sieving them together to create something incredible. Her vibrato-y voice delivers the lyrics in her incomparable way (by incomparable, I mean I haven’t come up with a word to describe how good it is) over a fantastic music arrangement while her dinner-plate sized earrings sway.
Also: while I was up in Rotorua Tim went to see Lil Band O’ Gold at San Francisco Bath House. Apparently they played for two and a half hours and were seriously awesome.
Next time: I’m a Nigella lady to the core, but tried my first ever Delia Smith recipe last week, and that’s probably what I’ll put up next.