Today we’re testing a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s new cookbook, ‘Jamie’s America’, which has arrived just in time for the pre-Christmas build-up. This time round Jamie travels to several US states such as New York, Louisiana, Arizona and the “Wild West” in a quest to get past the junk food and super-sized meals and rediscover the heart and soul of great American cooking. This cooking is often simple and honest, as in the case of the recipe we chose to try, although Jamie has added quite a few of his own personal touches to the recipes. We got our copy of ‘Jamie’s America’ at Exclusive Books for R354.
Hush Puppies from ‘Jamies’ America’
Jamie describes hush puppies are little savoury doughnuts made from cornmeal or polenta. Their name supposedly comes from the time of the Great Depression, when many people were going hungry. “When they did get a bit of food, their hungry dogs would hang around whining, so they’d throw these little buns to them to keep them quiet.” The recipe yields 25 to 30 hush puppies, according to Jamie. Here are his instructions:
300g fine cornmeal or polenta (we used polenta); 100g self-raising flour; 1 x 330ml bottle of beer; 100g fresh or frozen sweetcorn (we used fresh, cooked corn cut off the cob); 4 spring onions, trimmed and finely sliced; 120g freshly and finely grated Cheddar cheese; salt and freshly ground black pepper; 1 litre vegetable oil (for frying); smoked paprika.
Put the cornmeal and flour into a bowl, add your beer, and leave to sit for a few minutes. Add the corn, sliced spring onions, grated cheese and a pinch of salt and pepper and use a fork or spoon to mix it up really well. Once your batter is ready, pour your vegetable oil into a large sturdy pan and put it on a high heat. Make sure you don’t move the pan about and that no one is running around the kitchen while you’re doing this, as hot oil can burn quite badly.
You want the oil to reach about 180 degrees C, so if you don’t have a thermometer get a small piece of potato and drop it into the pan. When it turns crisp and golden and rises to the top, the oil is ready to go. Get tablespoonsful of mix and carefully drop it into the hot oil. In Georgia they roll their batter into round balls, but I say just let it drop off the spoon, a bit scruffy and rustic feels right to me. You’ll need to cook them in batches.
Keep your eye on them and let them fry for about 3 to 4 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper, Sprinkle over a tiny bit of sea salt and a hit of paprika to finish them off, and serve right away, either on their own or as they do at roadside restaurants, or as part of a meal. Naughty but nice!
The Global Table Verdict
Judging by the picture our hush puppies came out pretty much like the ones Jamie made. We followed the recipe to the letter but there were one or two few early pitfalls. For one, you have to use a non-stick pan for the frying, as the first pan we used made the hush puppies stick terribly to the bottom. We then transferred the oil to a teflon-coated frying pan which made for less “deep frying”, but nevertheless did the trick – you’ll have to turn the hush puppies over though so they cook evenly on both sides.
I (Louise) used spoonfuls of the mixture rather than rolling the doughy batter into balls – it seemed too sticky somehow for the latter option. Also be careful of the odd exploding air bubble as Salvelio very nearly had a hush puppy permanently imprinted on his forehead.
The recipe is very economical and the hush puppies made for a great snack alongside an ice-cold beer. The dusting of smoked Spanish paprika or “pimenton” just before serving made for a delicious additional layer of flavour. I (Louise) enjoyed the hush puppies far more than Salvelio did though, as he found their beer taste a little odd. As with most deep-fried food, they really have to be eaten immediately. We would probably make them again.