Yesterday I shared the recipe for Balkan Cabbage and Bean Stew that I developed as a way of keeping my grandmother’s culinary traditions going in the 21st century. The very best, and also very traditional, side food for a sturdy Balkan dish featuring a pile of cabbage and beans is proja (pronounced pro-ya), a savory cornbread that is, in its pure form simple and subtle. Think polenta but in sold form!
Over the years, recipes for proja have diversified away from using just corn flour, water, oil and baking soda, into more elaborate recipes that include eggs, cheese, yogurt, ham, and even pickles. I tried and enjoyed many of them, and they are delicious. But when it comes to pairing with a rich main dish, simpler is better. The recipe below is a relatively pared down but not-your-grandma’s Balkan style cornbread that is gluten-free and vegan.
I decided to add actual corn kernels to this recipe for a slightly more interesting texture. The corn I use is frozen corn that I defrosted on my kitchen counter top (you can always do it overnight in the fridge or quickly in the microwave). To jazz things up a bit I did add a can of fire roasted diced green chiles. You can totally skip this or add any other pepper you like if you are into a spicier version of the corn bread with a bit of kick!
Balkan Style Cornbread, Gluten-free and Vegan
What you’ll need:
1 1/2 cup corn meal, fine
1 1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup corn starch
2 cups kernel corn
1 can chili peppers
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups water
What you’ll do:
- Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
- In a large mixing bowl combine all the ingredients except water. Add 1 cup of water and mix well. The cornbread batter should be wet but not too fluid, so I recommend adding the second cup of water in stages to make sure you don’t end up with a corn bread soup.
- Spray the bottom and the sides of a 13 x 9 in (33 x 23 cm) baking dish with the cooking spray.
- Pour the cornbread batter in, even it out and put it in the oven.
- Bake at 425 F (220 C) for 20 min then lower the temperature to 350 F (175 C) for another 20 minutes.
- Leave on the counter top for 10-15 minutes to cool, then cut and enjoy!
Note: This corn bread tastes great warm but if you don’t finish the entire cornbread immediately I recommend taking it out of the baking dish and storing in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. You can reheat it in the toaster oven or zap it for 30 sec in the microwave oven.
Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017
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