Fresh sweetcorn kernels fried with smoky bacon – that’s a wonderful dish in its own right. But pile it atop fresh lettuce leaves, add half an avocado and sprinkle everything with feta and furikake – it’s a fusion salad better than a lot others.
What makes a good salad?
A good salad needs to have four requisite elements in it, a little like weddings: something old, new and so on. In the salad world – and I’m thinking salad as a main course, not just a pile of leaves with a solitary tomato on the side – there must be something fresh, something filling, something starchy and something crunchy.
This recipe originates from my obsession with sweetcorn: this summer and autumn it seems to be the sweetest, fattest, ripest juicy kernels on impressively handsome cobs. I don’t know where my fruit and veg market traders source their corn this year, but it’s so glorious that it can’t be imported from afar.
How to cook sweetcorn?
You can boil whole ears or steam them; they are rather decent microwaved for 3 minutes and adorable off the barbecue. But relatively recently I also discovered how easy, quick and tasty is corn off the cob, cooked as stripped kernels.
Creamed corn is a Native American staple, adopted by mainly southern and midwestern states. It should have no cream addition in it, the ‘cream’ being the milky liquid that oozes from the kernels of super-fresh cobs.
However, unless you have a field of corn outside your house, there won’t be much oozing into the dish. Hence, I add cream and sometimes a little soft blue cheese, just to be decadent.
But sweetcorn kernels can also be fried in a little butter or olive oil, making it a healthy, easy and cheap side dish, as a large ear of corn will generously serve two as a side.
Bacon and sweetcorn go together like rock n’ roll
And as it turns out, it’s absolutely divine fried with bacon.
The serendipity of this recipe was, as often happens, finding things to put together for an end-of-week meal. Some bacon or pancetta needed to be used up, there was my glorious ear of corn, and some green leaves to serve as the bowl liner. It turned out to be a revelation.
Forget tuna and sweetcorn jacket potato topping. Give no notice ever again to sweetcorn and egg sandwich filling. Don’t add sweetcorn to chowder and never make it into fritters: sweetcorn’s best match is crispy, salty bacon. And it only takes five minutes to cook.
How to use the sweetcorn–bacon combo?
I would put it on everything if I could, since I’d discovered how fantastic it tastes. Jacket potato topping? Yes, please. On a pizza? Why not. In a sandwich? That I have not tried but I can’t say it doesn’t sound appealing.
The best idea though is this salad. It has the bacon and corn for filler and starch, the undeservedly disdained iceberg lettuce for the fresh part, plus avocado and feta cheese to make it a wholesome, satisfying dish.
The crunch is provided by furikake, Japanese seasoning of sesame seeds and seaweed flakes, which I also put on everything I can these days.
What is furikake?
Please note: you might think I’m proposing an exotic, foreign ingredient only available from Oriental supermarkets or specialist online delis at ten quid for the shipping. Not quite: the Sanchi Furikake Seasoning is also available from Ocado and Amazon and you might want to stock up on it.
If it is completely unavailable, make it yourself. A mix of plain and black sesame seeds in equal quantities needs to be tossed with some crumbled seaweed leaves, nori or kombu. You can buy them in small jars, ready-flaked, or as a snack in paper-thin sheets, e.g., from Itsu.
Bacon or pancetta?
As much as I love the exquisite, barely salty, paper-thin Italian cured pork belly, I prefer old-fashioned, gutsy bacon in this dish.
Streaky smoked, the thicker sliced the better or lardons thereof releases the nicest fat as it crispens and cooks the sweetcorn kernels to perfection.
Feta and avocado substitutes
In case you’re not keen on avocado: you can replace it with a dollop of hummus or baked sweet potato. Just add extra furikake.
And if you can’t stand feta, season some cream cheese, buffalo mozzarella or ricotta heavily with salt and black pepper, and dot all over the salad.
More main course salad recipes
Avocado and red kidney bean salad with crispy garlic and crunchy topping can be served as a starter, for lunch, brunch, for dinner and supper. A vegetarian and hearty main course salad, by all means.
Warm salads may feel more like dinner, so here’s chicken and halloumi salad with peach salsa.
And I couldn’t fail to mention my firm all-time favourite classic: chicken Caesar salad.
More bacon recipes
Bacon for breakfast, but not as you know it. This is bacon and banana – a delicious, sort of Elvis tribute dish.
Bacon as a snack, for all those who secretly sneak chunks from the frying pan whilst cooking: brown sugar bacon.
And another salad of bacon with cucumber, potato and a hefty dose of chilli. Not for the faint-hearted.
More sweetcorn recipes
Corn with feta again, this time also with chicken. It’s three good recipes in one.
Sweetcorn with rice? Absolutely. Here in a paella-style dish with chorizo sausage.
And finally, you can use the described above mix of corn and bacon to stuff into enchiladas with salsa roja and sharp Cheddar. My take on a Mexican classic.