'Tis the season of corn!
Walk down a bustling road on a rainy day, on the curb you find a man under his umbrella vigorously fanning a little hearth. The hearth, itself, is covered in corn cobs at varying degrees of readiness. He deftly picks up a hot cob in one hand; the other holds a lime wedge dipped in a masala mix. He then rubs the wedge all over the roasted and blistered corn, depositing a tangy and spicy flavour bomb. This roasted and smoked corn then gets transferred on to the husk that encased it originally and is handed on to a hungry bystander for a meagre amount.
The magic of monsoons in India is not without bhutta, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Mumbai or Mughalsarai. Bhutta is easily one of healthiest, heartiest and versatile snack that has no haters. Despite being high on calories, it is a gold mine of nutrients—protein, phenols, vitamin B, folic acid, minerals such as zinc, manganese, iron and copper, and plenty of fibre.
Incidentally, maize is not indigenous to India. It was Mexicans who first domesticated the cereal from the grass family, almost 10,000 years ago, it has travelled across the world. Today, it is the South and Central American nations, which have some of the most colourful and exotic corn varietals. Mexico has 59 while Peru has 55 local breeds of maize or corn. It is from here that the cereal travelled across the world including India.
There is archaeological proof from 12-13th century that maize was present in India already. It is one of the biggest cereal crop in the nation today. As per a FICCI report, “Maize consumption has increased by 2% over previous year reaching it to a figure of 24 million metric tonnes during FY 2016-17.” But demand is at an all-time high and to meet domestic needs, India would require 45 million metric tonnes of Maize by the year 2022.
To celebrate the season of monsoon and the humble maize or corn or bhutta, here are 3 simple ways to prepare the seemingly complicated grain at home.
Replicating that charred smokiness of an open coal fire, paired with tangy seasoning of the roadside vendor, at home is a tough act but not impossible. A regular gas stove is a good substitute. Place the monsoon staple husked bhutta on the flame and cook till all sides have blistered and charred. While the corn cooks, cut a lime into wedges and make a spice mix using chilli powder, salt, rock salt and or chaat masala—we leave the proportions to your discretion. Dip the lime in the spice mix and rub over the ear of corn generously.
The Mexican version of chargrilled corn on the cob is very similar to its Indian counterpart. It differs only on the seasoning. If you don’t have a grill handy, you can char the ear of corn on a gas stove. For the seasoning, mix equal portions of mayonnaise, sour cream with half portion of feta (or similar crumbly cheese) with chilli powder, minced garlic and chopped coriander. Slather on the hot ear of corn. Sprinkle some more cheese and chilli powder, and lime juice before serving.
Buttered Corn on the Cob
Perhaps the most mundane of all recipes is buttered corn on the cob. But it is delicious, how can it not? It has BUTTER! The unbelievable simplicity of the recipe can be considered both an advantage and a disadvantage. Bring a big saucepan full of salted water to a rolling boil. Drop the husked corn cobs into the water, ensure they are fully submerged. Wait for the water to come back to a rolling boil and then turn off the heat. Let the corn sit in the hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. Drain the corn cobs, slather on plenty of salted butter. Voila! Buttered con on the cob ready to serve.
Alternatively, use the microwave to reduce the cooking time further. Don’t husk the corn completely, just enough to get rid of the silk. It will take an ear of corn around 3 minutes to cook. To make the seasoning more interesting, mix paprika, garlic, herbs, whatever excites you in the butter and put it on the warm cob.
My personal favourite is char-grilling the ear of corn, smear a layer of salted butter (Amul butter, FTW!) and then wolf down the hot, grilled and buttered bhutta.
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