August 18, 2009

Zucchini & Fennel Cornbread

This recipe was created during an impromptu cooking session at a close friend's house in London. She was helping me to prepare some substantial party fare to feed our friends who were coming to celebrate Midsummer's Eve. That night we had an amazing time- our local park even had it's own stone circle and a near 360° view of London. To make the feasting even more complete a sweet woman at the stone circle gathering was passing around slices of leftover plum tarts from her nearby gourmet deli. What a treat; it was wonderfully generous of her and the tarts were incredible!

This gluten-free bread is admittedly pretty addictive- however it is best eaten warm or grilled with melted cheese on top- a personal favourite. I make it a couple of times each year right around the peak harvest for both fennel and zucchini- although clearly this was not the case the first time I made it- bless those English polytunnels!

Strangely enough, a friend came over today and asked for some zucchini recipe tips, and even though I had just made this bread, I completely forgot to mention it. So hopefully this recipe will find its way to her recipe book, to help tackle the fruits of her ever-abundant zucchini plant.

Required: one ring mould insert for a spring-form pan, or a similar metal ring-shaped tin.

Preheat the oven to 200°C for 45 mins and oil the pan

1 fennel bulb- thinly sliced
1 small onion- diced
2 cloves of garlic- diced
Take 325 grams of zucchini and chop in half. Grate one half and add to the above.
Sauté all of the above together with one tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt on low heat, being careful not to brown the mixture, until the onion is nearly transparent. Set aside to cool.

Peel and chop the other half of the zucchini into roughly 2 cm wide x 1/4 inch thick pieces and save for adding to the main batter (these will soften up nicely when baked and will provide bursts of juiciness).

For the Gluten-free flour mixture:
1 cup cornmeal- you can mix this half and half with polenta, or you can use 100% polenta if that’s what you have on hand
1 cup oat flour (oats ground to flour consistency or store-bought oat flour)
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp xanthan gum
1/4 tsp guar gum

For the batter:
6-8 leaves of fresh basil
2 eggs plus two egg whites
3 tbsp oil
1 cup semi-skimmed milk (2%)
1/2 cup plain yogourt
a few turns of a black pepper mill

Beat the eggs then add the oil, milk and yogourt whisking between each addition.
Roughly chop the basil and add. Add the flour mixture in two halves mixing with a wooden spoon. Then add the chopped zucchini and fold in the sautéed mixture.

Pour the batter into the oiled baking tin and bake for 45 minutes.
* If you would like a more flavourful 'crust', then sprinkle large crystals of sea salt all over the top either before baking or after 15 mins in the oven. After baking turn the bread out of the pan and let cool for a further 15 minutes- the bread is so moist that it retains a lot of heat and needs this cooling time. Enjoy warm with butter.

Optional add-ins: I recommend adding 1 cup of grated aged cheddar cheese, or another strongly flavoured cheese, like asiago, to the batter for a richer flavour.

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