It’s that time of the year when talk turns to whether anyone has any travel plans to look forward to. “Getting away anywhere for half term?” “Any plans for Christmas?” So long as any such travels are denied us, food can be a powerful means of escape. We may not make it to any far-flung places this winter, but, if you can, venture out instead to find some fresh curry leaves, coconut, sweetcorn and aromatics, then return home and turn on the stove. It’s not the real sun, I know: it’s not south-east Asia, it’s not white, sandy beaches, and it sure ain’t Malibu. But the smells and tastes will transport you, so it’s still a journey worth taking.
Corn, sesame and coconut fritters (pictured above)
These are great for brunch, but they’ll also work well as a light lunch or dinner. Try experimenting with grapefruit or orange juice in the dipping sauce, instead of the lime.
Prep 25 min
Cook 50 min
Makes About 12
For the fritters
90g coconut oil
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 green chillies, finely chopped
3 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped
2½ tbsp (5g) finely chopped fresh ginger
¾ tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp lime zest
120ml full-fat coconut milk
350g frozen corn kernels, defrosted and roughly blitzed
2 tbsp mixed black and white sesame seeds, toasted
For the dipping sauce
60ml lime juice
2 tbsp mirin (check it’s a gluten-free one, if need be)
1 red chilli, very finely chopped
2 tsp mint leaves, very finely shredded
1 spring onion, trimmed and julienned
3 tbsp (10g) mint leaves
3 tbsp (10g) coriander leaves
Put two tablespoons of the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan on a medium-high heat. Add the garlic, chillies, spring onions, ginger and half a teaspoon of salt, and fry gently, stirring regularly, for eight minutes, until soft and fragrant. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for five minutes.
In a large bowl, whisk the turmeric, lime zest, eggs, coconut milk, blitzed corn, sesame seeds and a half-teaspoon of salt until combined, then stir in the cooled spring onion mixture and set aside.
For the dipping sauce, mix everything together with a good pinch of salt.
Wipe clean the pan and return it to a medium-high heat with two tablespoons of coconut oil. Pour about 65g of batter per fritter into the hot oil, and fry two or three at a time (or as many as will fit without overlapping) for four or five minutes, flipping them once halfway, until nicely browned on both sides. Transfer to a tray and keep warm in a low oven while you repeat with the rest of the batter (top up the oil, if need be, and bring it back up to heat before adding any more of the fritter mix).
Arrange the fritters on a platter and serve with the dipping sauce, shredded spring onion, mint and coriander alongside.
Corn salad with coconut and curry leaves
Serve this smoky, sweet, sour, salty and very versatile salad with white fish, or pile it into a sandwich or wrap. It also works well as a condiment to curry.
Prep 15 min
Cook 30 min
4 corn cobs, husks removed and discarded
60g coconut oil
30 fresh curry leaves
3 tbsp tinned coconut cream
Flaked sea salt
1½ tbsp lime juice
1½ tbsp (5g) coriander leaves, finely chopped
1½ tbsp (5g) chives, finely chopped
1 spring onion, trimmed and finely chopped
Put a griddle pan on a high heat. Once it’s smoking, lay in the corn and grill, turning it regularly, for about eight minutes, until nicely charred all over. Set aside to cool, then use a sharp knife to shave the kernels into a large bowl.
Heat the coconut oil in a large saute pan on a medium-high heat. Once hot, add the curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds, until crisp. Remove the leaves with a slotted spoon and set them aside, then add the coconut cream, charred corn and half a teaspoon of flaked salt to the pan and fry for two minutes.
Leave the mixture to cool for five minutes, then add to a bowl with the lime juice, herbs and spring onion, and mix well. Transfer to a platter, top with the crisp curry leaves and serve.
Corn, coconut and lime cake
I love the combination of corn and coconut in this cake. The crunchy, sweet topping, finished with condensed milk, is also totally irresistible and makes a great sweet treat in its own right.
Prep 15 min
Cook 1 hr 15 min
For the cake
100g unsalted butter, softened at room temperature, plus extra for greasing
150g caster sugar
150g frozen corn kernels, defrosted and roughly blitzed
100g desiccated coconut
2 tbsp lime zest (from about 4 limes)
100g plain flour
80g quick-cook polenta
120g Greek-style yoghurt
½ tsp vanilla bean paste
¾ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp flaked sea salt
For the topping
140g dried coconut flakes (aka coconut chips)
2 tbsp maple syrup
90g condensed milk, plus 3 tbsp extra, to serve
½ tsp flaked salt
1 tsp lime zest
Heat the oven to 190C (180C fan)/390F/gas 6. Grease and line a 20cm spring-form cake tin.
Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment in place, then beat for two to three minutes, until light and fluffy. Add all the remaining cake ingredients, beat again until just combined, then spoon into the prepared tin.
Bake for 25 minutes, remove from the oven and turn down the heat to 180C (160C fan)/350F/gas 4.
Mix the coconut flakes with the maple syrup, condensed milk and salt, making sure the flakes are completely coated, then scatter evenly over the surface of the cake to cover it. Return the cake to the oven for 30 minutes, turning it around once halfway so it cooks evenly, until the coconut flakes are crisp and golden brown.
Take out of the oven, leave to cool in the tin for at least half an hour, then unclip the tin and put the cake on a rack to cool completely
Just before serving, drizzle over the remaining three tablespoons of condensed milk and finish with a sprinkling of lime zest.