Growing up in Austria, there were two vegetables that were grown all around me, but that nobody seemed to eat: pumpkin and sweetcorn. My grandparents owned and worked a small farm, which was more a labour of love with my granddad combining the functions of cobbler, designated medicine-man and mayor of the little town my parents grew up in. But grow vegetables they did - and for sweetcorn and pumpkin he just had one thing to say: pumpkin was for the pigs and sweetcorn for the chicken. We never ate any of it ourselves.
The only experiences of eating sweetcorn as a kid was going to a lake near my hometown in the summer and stealing baby sweetcorn from the field behind the parking lot. Eating it there and then, with an adequate portion of guilt gnawing on us while we were gnawing on the cob. And, well, there was popcorn on those long game nights our family used to cherish. Homemade, in the pot, with luscious amounts of butter, because my parents never owned a microwave. And because we love our butter. But that's a whole different story.
So I only came to appreciate fresh sweetcorn when living in London and enjoying BBQs in our own garden. We always had corn on the cob there, with generous amounts of chilli and herb butter. And if there were leftovers, I would make sweetcorn soup or salad the next day.
This recipe uses fresh sweetcorn, as we don't have a BBQ here - but feel free to substitute leftover grilled corn or even try canned if maize is not in season in your neck of the woods... just adjust the cooking time accordingly. And because no soup is complete without a topping, be it garlic croutons or a generous sprinkle of parmesan, I added some crunchy popcorn and crispy bacon... a match made in heaven. I made enough of the topping to be nibbling away on it for the rest of the evening - it's unbelievably moreish, don't say I didn't warn you!
(serves 4 as a starter)
4 cobs of fresh corn/maize
30 g butter
75 g lean cured raw bacon
1 medium onion (peeled and thinly sliced)
600 ml vegetable or chicken stock
1 handful popping corn
Cut the bacon into small dice (ca. 3mm), melt the butter in a pot and fry the bacon in it until it is starting to brown. Lift the bacon bits out with a slotted spoon, leave to dry and crisp up on a paper towel.
Add the onion slices to the pot and cook until translucent and starting to brown. Carefully cut the corn kernels off the cob and add to the pot, stirring for about 1 minute. Pour in the soup stock and cook for 20 minutes, continuously stirring.
Prepare the popcorn - pour some oil into a lidded pot to just cover the bottom, add the popping corn, cook with the lid on until the corn pops. Lightly salt.
Puree the soup with a handheld blender until smooth. Add soup stock to your liking should you prefer your soup thinner. Divide between soup bowls, sprinkle with the popcorn and bacon just before serving.