After the success of our indulgent Christmas holiday in the Hunter Valley last year, Colin and I determined to recreate the experience again, this time choosing another wine region – Mudgee, NSW. We enjoyed a long road trip through the beautiful NSW countryside, overnighting in Uralla on the way down and Armidale on the way back. In Mudgee itself we relaxed in a rustic cottage surrounded by cypress (complete with a resident mob of kangaroos and two large goanna), well and truly sampled the local wines, went kayaking at Wollemi National Park, and fitted in lots of walking, eating, reading and sleeping. It was the perfect getaway after a work-weary year.
Following our recently formed tradition, the major food focus for Christmas Day was breakfast. After last year’s festive breakfast fiasco, which resulted in cold eggs and under-seasoned sauce – not my finest culinary moment – I resolved to be much more prepared and coordinated this year. So: I made one component of the breakfast the night before, then in the morning we ate a “pre-breakfast” to ensure that our hunger wouldn’t distract me from a dignified execution, then I pre-set the table, took some test shots before I started cooking, and limited the amount of photos I took overall. How could this fail!
The recipe I selected this year was Corn Fritters. Last summer I was on a mission to create the perfect corn fritter but I didn’t quite get there. I wanted another go, and Matt Moran’s recipe seemed different than anything I had previously tried. The distinguishing feature is that Matt has you first make a creamed corn mixture of which half a cup goes into the fritter batter. It must be said that this creamed corn is worth making in its own right. Sweet and savoury all at once, it’s light years away from the canned creamed corn that I remember eating on toast as a kid. It’s a bit like a lighter, more fragrant wet polenta, and the leftovers go fantastically with chicken.
Beyond the creamed corn though, we were a bit underwhelmed with the completed dish. The cooking process went smoothly, and apart from the challenges of unfamiliar equipment and a strangely vociferous electric stove top, the fritters turned out light and colourful. The problem was that they were too delicate in flavour to stand up to the harissa-yoghurt sauce, which dominated everything else on the plate. No matter how hot and well-seasoned our breakfast was this year, no matter how coordinated and focused I was, we couldn’t deny our disappointment. Luckily, a bottle of lovely champagne saved the morning, washing our sorrow clean away as we got on with the other business of Christmas – opening presents, sending text messages, eating chocolate and other delicacies, and lazing about listening to jazz. It certainly is tough when a ho-hum breakfast is the only thing to cloud your day.
There was potential in those fritters though and I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I remade them as soon as we got back to Brisbane and the recipe posted here is the tweaked one which turns out to be The One, the Corn Fritter of my dreams. My Corn Fritters have fewer ingredients overall, and critically, contain a small amount of crumbled feta and half the flour. The feta sits in the background and serves to enhance the sweet corn flavour while less flour means more of the good bits per mouthful. The second time around I avoided the harissa sauce completely, and instead used a dollop of tomato chutney and slices of avocado along with the poached eggs. It was such a satisfying combination and easily the best breakfast we have had in ages.
Of course the moral of this story (and of my last two Christmas Breakfast attempts) is that if I want Christmas Breakfast to shine, I need to trial the recipe beforehand. Surely it’s that simple. Maybe next year I’ll get it right!
Corn & Feta Fritters
For the creamed corn:
2 corn cobs
1/3 cup leek (white parts only), thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 cup cream
1/4 cup chicken stock
For the fritters:
1 medium courgette (zucchini)
1/3 cup crumbled feta (choose a firm, sharp feta)
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup self-raising flour
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp olive oil
To serve: Your choice of poached eggs, bacon, herby salad, avocado and/or tomato chutney
Remove the husks and silk from the corn cobs and boil for 4-5 minutes or until tender. Remove from the pot, and when cool enough to handle, cut the kernels off the cobs. Set aside.
To make the creamed corn, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the leek and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add half of the reserved corn kernels and cook for a further minute. Add the cream and chicken stock, bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes until the liquid has reduced by about a half. Blend to a creamy sauce using a stick blender. Set aside. The creamed corn can be made ahead and stored in the fridge.
To make the fritters, combine 1/2 cup of the creamed corn in a bowl with the courgette, remaining corn kernels, garlic, feta and eggs. Stir in the flour and season well with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and cook 1/4 portions of the batter in batches. Serve the fritters with your choice of accompaniments, along with coffee and/or champagne.