These manage to pull off the trick of being totally light but utterly creamy at the same time. Other cheeses also work instead of the feta: Gorgonzola, for example, if you want something a bit punchier.
If you want to go for restaurant-style presentation on the other hand, use the corn husks (rather than baking parchment) to line the tins. They look lovely – like little bamboo baskets. To do this, peel off the husks: you should have about 18 pieces. Discard any stringy bits and place the remainder in a bowl, well covered with water. Set aside for 30 minutes, for the husks to soften, then trim them with scissors to make them shorter and easier to line the base of the muffin tins.
If you are looking for a shortcut , just serve the corn cakes with a crisp green salad, rather than the beetroot and apple. Fresh radishes are also lovely, halved and tossed in some olive oil, with a good pinch of coarse sea salt.
If you use a regular muffin tin – where the moulds are 5cm wide at the base and 3cm deep – you’ ll make 12 muffins, so everyone gets served two. You can also use a larger muffin tin – where the moulds are 7cm wide and 4 1/2cm deep – to make 6 larger cakes, so that everyone has one.
6 as a starter or light lunch
5 medium corn cobs, husks removed, or 500g frozen corn kernels, defrosted
3 small banana shallots, finely diced (100g)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted and coarsely crushed
1 tsp ground cumin, lightly toasted
1 tsp celery seeds
15g tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp baking powder
80g unsalted butter, melted, plus 20g extra for greasing the moulds
2 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
2 tbsp plain flour
60g feta, broken into 6 or 12 chunks (depending on size of muffin tray)
coarse sea salt and black pepper
Beetroot and apple salad:
120g Greek yoghurt
2 tsp Valdespino sherry vinegar (or another good-quality sherry vinegar)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp fennel seeds, roasted
and coarsely crushed, plus ½ tsp extra, to garnish
½ tsp celery seeds
15g parsley, roughly chopped
2 medium raw beetroot, peeled and julienned (200g)
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and julienned (140g), kept covered with water with some lemon juice, to prevent discoloration, if prepared in advance
5g baby basil or small regular basil leaves
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6. Grease the six or twelve moulds (see introduction) very well with butter and line with squares of baking parchment, cut large enough so that the sides rise a couple of centimetres above the muffin tray.
- Place all the ingredients for the salad, apart from the beetroot and apple, in a medium bowl. Mix well and set aside until ready to serve.
- Place each cob perpendicular on your chopping board and use a large sharp knife to shave off the kernels: you should have about 500g. Discard the cob and transfer the kernels to a food processor, along with the shallots and garlic. Pulse for 3–4 seconds, until the mixture is roughly processed but has not turned to a wet purée. Add the fennel seeds, cumin, celery seeds, tarragon, baking powder, butter and egg yolks, along with 1½ teaspoons of salt and a very good grind of black pepper. Blitz a few more times, to combine – some of the corn kernels will still be whole – then transfer to a medium bowl. Fold the flour in by hand and set aside.
- Place the egg whites in a separate medium bowl and whisk to form firm peaks. Fold a third of the whites gently into the corn mixture – you don’t want to overwork it – and then, once it has incorporated, continue with the next third and then the next. Once fully incorporated, divide the mixture between the moulds and then insert a chunk of feta into each. Push it halfway down the corn mixture: the cakes will puff up around the cheese when they cook. Bake for 25–40 minutes, depending on the size of your moulds, until the cakes have risen and are golden and fluffy: the mixture will still be a bit wet at this point. Remove from the oven and set aside for 10 minutes before lifting them out of the tray.
- Add the beetroot and apple to the salad dressing just before serving and mix together gently. Serve the warm cakes with the salad alongside, sprinkled with the remaining fennel seeds and the basil leaves.