Growing up in Kolkata I have vivid memories of the “Rath-er Mela” in my neighborhood of Rashbehari Avenue. A magical week, when the main road would be cordoned off and a carnival of lights and sounds would descend in its place… toys, knick knacks, ferris wheels, plants and of course, food. There were rickety stalls hawking papad bhajas, jilipis, moghlai parotas and ugly fuschia pink sweets but what I remember the most are the Bhuttas or corns on the cob. Roasted over hot coals, generously brushed with rock salt and lemon juice, the sweet kernels were a sharp contrast to the smoky and numbingly sour after taste. It was delightful to eat them as it gently drizzled outside.
Other than eating sweet corn this way, the only other way we ate corn in those days was in a sweet corn soup. Personally I never cared for the suspicious gloopy concoction served in Chinese restaurants. In later years, sweet corn was sold in malls and multiplexes jazzed up with interesting spice blends.
Sadly, we do not cook, or rather cook enough, with corn. Although we are used to eating cornflakes for breakfast and popcorn remains our movie theatre favorite, we don’t see many Indian recipes made with corn.
In the west, corn is consumed as cornmeal and used in various kinds of food.
The Mexican favorite, tortilla is made of corn. As is cornbread, the classic Southern dish. Then there is the corndog, a hot dog on a stick, deep fried with a thick cornmeal batter. Creamed corn is also a side that finds its place on the dinner table.
In India I’ve come across very few interesting dishes made of corn. Bhutte Ka Kees is a delicious street food, originally from Indore, which has an Upma-like consistency and is made by grating tender corn and then cooking it with ghee, asafetida, mustard, cumin, coconut, etc. Likewise, Makai ka Halwa, a sweet dish is popular in parts of Western India. And ofcourse, the ubiquitous Makki di Roti is hard to ignore when it comes to Punjabi food.
In my endeavor to make the breakfast table look more interesting, I have used corn kernels in breakfast pancakes, savoury muffins and even topped idlis with it. (I am guessing that some of my South Indian friends would like to kill me at this point of time.) I even combined it with shrimps, spring onions and spices and made fritters. In all cases, they added body and did not disturb the dominant flavour of the dishes, perhaps due to their neutrality of taste.
This week I am sharing an easy recipe with corn, Tandoori Bhutta. It is made much in the same manner as a Tandoori Chicken. Corn is intrinsically tender and juicy, hence it rarely dries out, which makes this dish quite fool proof. This recipe is meant for home cooks and is made on top a gas oven.
Corn on the cob – 2, medium sized
Yogurt – 100 gms
Tandoori masala – 2 tbsp
Ginger garlic paste – 1 tbsp
Chilli powder – ½ tbsp
Lemon juice – 1 tsp
Rock salt – 1 tsp
Mustard Oil – 2 tbsp
Butter – 2 tbsp, melted
Coriander – 1 tbsp, chopped (optional)
Cut the corn into 2 or three pieces each. Pressure cook in salted water for a good 4-5 whistles. Drain well and let it cool.
In a bowl, combine yogurt, tandoori masala, ginger garlic paste, chilli powder, lemon juice, rock salt and mustard oil. Coat the corn in this masala judiciously. You can keep this marinated in the refrigerator for an hour.
Stab a knife or a skewer on one side of the corn to hold it like a lollypop. Brush the flesh with melted butter, switch on the gas and hold it directly over the flame. Gently move the corn around over the open flame till all sides have specks of black. You can brush more butter if needed.
Serve hot as a starter, garnished with coriander
photo courtesy: Subhasree Basu