Lennox Hastie knows all there is to know about cooking with flames. Having perfected his technique at Michelin-starred restaurants throughout Europe, the lauded UK chef is now the owner and head chef of Surry Hills restaurant Firedoor. Hastie has so much respect for cooking with fire he considers the type of wood he burns an integral part of his method. “Wood-based fire offers a completely different style of cooking and flavour profile,” he says.
Coming into the warmer months, one of Hastie’s favourite dishes to cook over flames is grilled corn.“Corn is just amazing when it grills,” he says. “It’s yellow and sweet – it’s the flavour of summer, really.”
At Firedoor Hastie likes cooking corn using wood from fruit trees to slightly sweeten the grain. “We use fruit wood because it highlights the fruity qualities in the corn,” says Hastie. But even if you only have a gas barbeque, Hastie says there are other tips for cooking corn like a professional.
Begin by getting the barbeque as hot as possible before placing the corn directly onto the coals with its husk still on. “It goes white then charry on the outside,” says Hastie. “The husk is protecting it while it’s steaming internally.” That smoky husk adds flavour to the corns as it charrs, he says.
When the husk is completely charred, put it aside to rest. “We’ll strip all the charred husk away and later retoast it on the coals,” says Hastie. “It goes really nutty and sweet.”
While basic corn straight off the heat is delicious in itself, Hastie has shared five toppings that will take your corn game to the next level, as well as an edited recipe from his cookbook, Finding Fire to try at home.
Butter with kaffir lime leaves
“At Firedoor we make smoked butter in-house and infuse it with kaffir lime leaves,” says Hastie, though unsmoked butter works just as well. Roll the finished corn in the kaffir lime butter, add lime zest, a little bit of juice and some chopped jalapenos. “It’s a good combination of sweet but also aromatic,” says Hastie. “Then you get a nice bitter riff from the green jalapenos, which juxtaposes with the sweetness of the corn. It’s delicious.”
For a super-simple topping, Hastie suggests a sprinkle of pimentón (it’s like a Spanish sweet smoked paprika) over the top of your corn. Ask your local deli for the spice.
“A salty, sharp cheese with a bit of acid in it, like a pecorino, works really well, too,” Hastie says. Grate it generously over the corn along with torn fresh basil leaves or a drizzle of basil oil.
Another no-fuss topping that’s a little bit different is a scattering of toasted sesame seeds and shaved bonito flakes.
And the best drink to pair with your corn on a warm summer’s day? A light ale with fruit hints such as the James Squires Tropical Pale Ale – with notes of passionfruit and melon – will match perfectly with grilled vegetables.
At Firedoor Hastie smokes bottarga (cured roe) in-house. That’s probably not possible for the average home cook, so pick up the salted fish at your local delicatessen. Hastie shaves it over the grilled corn and pairs with dill.
Here's how to make Lennox Hastie’s favourite corn at home. Note: when choosing ears of corn, Hastie says to “look for ears heavy for their size with firm kernels running all the way up to the pale golden silks at the tip.”
Lennox Hastie’s corn with kaffir lime butter and green chilli
6 medium corncobs with husks on
1 medium onion, halved, skin on
500ml filtered water
5 kaffir lime leaves
200ml grapeseed oil
2 green jalapeños, deseeded and finely sliced
150g smoked butter
Zest and juice of 1 lime
Extra equipment: sugar thermometer, cast-iron pan, grill
Place corn directly on burning embers, rotating until evenly blackened on the outside. Transfer to a clean tray.
Grill onion until lightly charred and caramelised. Reserve to use in stock.
Put aside 2 corncobs for grilling. Cut kernels away from remaining 4 corncobs to total 400g. Reserve clean cobs, and cut each in half.
Place charred onion and corn cobs in a small saucepan with filtered water and bring to boil. Skim surface of any scum and allow stock to simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, add 2 kaffir lime leaves and infuse for 10 minutes. Strain through fine-mesh sieve into a pan.
Add corn kernels to hot stock and simmer for 10 minutes until soft. While warm, blend in a food processor or blender on medium–high speed to form a smooth cream. Season with salt, pass through a fine-mesh sieve and set aside.
In a cast-iron pan, heat the grapeseed oil to 140°C. Add jalapeños and fry until just crisp. They should remain vibrant and green. Strain off oil and immediately transfer to a paper towel to drain. Season.
Finely slice remaining kaffir lime leaves and place in a small pan with butter. Heat gently to melt the butter and leave to infuse for 30 minutes on low heat. Add lime juice.
Suspend grill approximately 10cm above embers. Brush two whole corncobs lightly with the butter and grill until golden brown and nutty. Rotate corn until evenly toasted, seasoning while turning. Then remove corn from heat, trim ends and halve each cob. Roll in kaffir lime butter.
Divide corn cream between serving plates. Place one piece of corn on the cream, top with grated lime zest and crisp green jalapeños. Serve.
This recipe is an edited extract from Finding Fire by Lennox Hastie.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with James Squire.