Image: Brent Hofacker/123RF

Mielies fill me with cheer. Its their time to shine right now, and for some months to come. While I know they aren’t strictly ours — they hail from South America after all — they did come our way as far back as the mid 1600s, which makes them so much a part of our nations cooking that its impossible to imagine our lives without them.

Yellow mielies (aka sweetcorn) are all well and good, but they can be sickly saccharine and aren’t right for every application. The starchy large white variety, aka green mielies, are good for a whole different range of dishes. I love them roasted and blackened, boiled or baked, but most of all I love them in mielie bread.

Mielie bread isn’t made nearly enough for my liking. In fact, I cant find it anywhere. Decades back, I’d get my fix from The Africa Hut in Hillbrow, a corner dive that served an array of consistently perfect hot dishes, among which mielie bread, flour-based pot bread and cabbage cooked to a melting softness were the stars. And then one day, as is the way of Johannesburg, they were gone.

Because mielie bread seemed both mysterious and a schlep, it was a long time later that, stumbling upon C Louis Leipoldt’s mieliebrood, in Leipoldt’s Food & Wine, I decided to give it a go. Actually, I ended up merging his version with a recipe from an ancient torn-out magazine scrap, origins unremembered. Sorry, Dr Leipoldt (I feel his retribution every time I make the bread). I think it’s a glorious starch to serve with many sorts of stews, from Cape bredie, to a French-leaning beef and red wine stew or the great Congolese chicken muamba. Though I adore this, I will concede its a love-it-or-hate-it item. The texture is distinctive and the flavour more mielie-like than mielies themselves.

Mielie bread to feed six

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh green mielies (white maize)
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • 4 teaspoons cake or bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • ½ to ¾ teaspoon salt 

Method:

Cut kernels off cobs with your best serrated knife and mince in a food processor until fine but not puréed. In a large bowl, mix with all other ingredients. Grease a bowl that has a volume about 30% more than the dough to allow for the rise, but which just fits into your largest pot. Pour the mix in and make a loose cover with baking paper or a kitchen cloth tied with string. Fill a pot with water to halfway up the sides of the bowl, put the lid on and bring the water to a simmer. Cook on low flame for two hours.

Yes, I know, this is not Jamies fast and sexy mielie bread, but you should be making your stew while the bread cooks. By the way, if the bowl rattles on the pot bottom, driving you insane, you can place wooden chopsticks or a similar dampening item between bowl and pot. Leftovers are welcome fried the next day in butter. Mielie bread makes the most fantastic breakfast.