A great accompaniment for a soup, stew, or chilli is a tasty cornbread, and this one is a winner. Mix it up in a bowl, pour it into a warmed cast-iron skillet, and bake it in the oven. Get your soup going first so that you can time it to have both dishes ready at just the right time.
The Best Cornbread Ever
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp. table salt
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 1 Tbsp. baking powder
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus 1 Tbsp. for the pan
- 1 & 1/4 cups buttermilk
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 cup plus 1/3 cups grated extra-sharp or old Cheddar cheese
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
- 2 scallions or green onions, diced
- 1/2 medium to large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
Place the rack in the lower middle of the oven, and heat to 375°F.
In a bowl mix the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, sugar, oil and buttermilk.
Coat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with the remaining tablespoon of oil and set it over medium heat. Add the butter. As the skillet heats, quickly stir the dry and wet ingredients together, just enough to combine – don’t whisk or beat. Then, stir in the cup of corn, one cup of the cheddar, the jalapeño, green onions, and red pepper.
When the butter has melted and the pan is hot to smoking, pour the batter evenly into the skillet. Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 cup of cheddar cheese on top and transfer it immediately into the oven. Bake until the cornbread is a light brown around the edge, about 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven, and allow to cool slightly. Cut the bread into wedges in the skillet, and serve warm.
Split Pea Soup with Smoked Pork Hock
Pea soup and cornbread are a classic combination. This delicious soup is easy to prepare. Just 10 or 15 minutes getting your vegetables ready, 10 minutes sauté ing them, and then a couple of hours of cooking when all you need to do is stir from time to time. There is ample time to make your cornbread while the soup is simmering, or you could easily prepare it ahead of time and reheat while the cornbread is baking.
- 10 cups of water or chicken broth
- 2 cups of dried split peas
- 1 cup of finely chopped onions
- 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 large carrots, diced
- 2 stalks of celery, diced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 large smoked pork hock - 1 and 1/2 to 2 pounds
- 1 Tbsp. cooking oil
- 2 heaping Tbsp. smooth Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, garlic, and celery and sauté until they are tender – about 10 minutes.
Add the split peas, the smoked pork hock, the liquid (water or broth), and herbs – thyme, oregano, bay leaves. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a gentle simmer. Cook covered for 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the peas and hock are both tender. If the soup needs thickening, you could remove the lid for the last half hour.
Remove the pork hock and trim the meat off the bone, discarding any skin and fat. Cut the meat into bite-sized pieces, and return it to the soup. Stir in the Dijon mustard –which really brightens the flavour - and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Discard the bay leaves and it is ready to serve with your cornbread! Serves 6 to 8.
Both red and white wines can work very well with this soup.
Available on the Jan. 23 release is the Simi Sonoma County Chardonnay 2018, $22.95. Given it retails at the winery for $20 U.S. and in stores for about $17, our price is very reasonable. This white impresses me with its Burgundy-like character. If there is any oak, it is quite nuanced. Instead, a lush mouthfeel accompanies clean citrus and peach flavours which carry through to a mineral-like element on the finish. Don’t serve it too cold, or you will miss out on the deft balance and interplay which makes this a really good sipper. With the soup, the bright flavours will be very nice up against the creamy full flavours of the soup.
Available at both the Wine Rack stores and at the LCBO, the Sandbanks French Kiss 2018 Merlot Cabernet, $19.95. With 9 grams per litre of sugar, it is still considered dry, but the effect is to soften things up deliciously. It integrates really well with the natural saltiness of the soup. On its own, the wine showcases the 70 per cent Merlot in the blend with ripe red berry fruit that is nicely harnessed with the 30 per cent Cabernet which adds structure and definition. At the end, the Cab brings a tightening, mocha-like note, adding grip.
Jan. 23 Vintages Release
It is that time of year when the LCBO tempts us with some great value wines, having done its best last month to get us to splurge for the holidays. This release offers dozens of worthwhile choices under $20, many of them ranging just between $14 and $16!
In White Wines, I am attracted to the Domaine La Bazillière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2019, $13.95, which earned Gold at the Concours des Vins de Loire 2020. If you like Sauvignon Blanc, you should also appreciate this steely white which is very dry, intense, fresh and balanced. You will love it with fish, and love it as a sipper when the warm weather returns.
In Situ Reserva Chardonnay 2019, $14.95, is a steal from Chile. It is easy-drinking and has good varietal character. It has developed some soft, round flavour after spending a few months on its lees in oak and it may suggest pineapple, peach and grapefruit – the 2018 earned a 90 from the reliable writer, Tim Atkin.
Chapoutier’s Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc, $15.95, is excellent. Critic Jeb Dunnock suggests that in it, “crushed citrus, honeyed minerality, licorice, and a touch of quince all give way to a layered, ripe, polished white that has loads to love.” – 92.
Les Hauts de Lagarde Blanc2019, $18.95, is a fine organic Bordeaux white - a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc – which took “best in class” at a recent International Women’s Wine Competition as well as receiving many other good reviews and awards. It is said to offer herb, apple and citrus notes and even a tropical hint of pineapple.
The values in Red Wines are even more plentiful. Gabriel Meffre’s Chateau Grand Escalion 2018, $14.95, is described in Community Reviews on the Natalie MacLean site as having “a meaty, incredibly Provençal style, offering medium to full-bodied notes of black cherries, melted licorice, roast herbs, and assorted Provençal spices… no hard edges, a charming, forward, sexy texture, and a great finish.”
The Torre Zambra Madia Montepulciano d, Abruzzo, 2017, $13.95, earned a heady 92 from James Suckling, who tells us that it is “wonderful” with the fruit perfectly on point, in this medium to full-bodied red that carries some soft tannins and some liveliness on the finish.
From Chile, we have the Ravanal Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, $15.95, which James Suckling rated #91 on his Top 100 Wines in 2019. He tells us it “has a very fresh and juicy array of ripe dark plums, blackberries and raspberries, framed in plenty of cedary oak. They're impressive volume and concentration on the palate and the oak is assertive yet well-matched.” – 93.
Intriguingly different might be Chile’s Mayu Appassimento Gran Reserva Carmenère 2017, $18.95. As an ‘appassimento’. It would have been made from grapes that had been partially dried, as is the practice with Italy’s Amarone. It has oodles of dark fruit, along with leather, smoke, and tobacco notes. In spite of all that fruit, it has a dry finish and good tannic grip, with 60 per cent of the wine having spent 8 to 10 months in American oak barrels. Robertparker.com gave it an 89 a year ago.
Who knows…maybe All these wines would be marvellous with our Split-Pea Soup!