Amazing maize: Tom Hunt’s no-waste recipe for corn cob ice-cream

The Mayans, and after them the Incas and the Aztecs, have been cultivating and cooking maize since about 2,000BC. Now, maize provides about a fifth of human global nutrition, and is grown in such quantity that uses have been found for all its byproducts, from aspirin to shampoo.

To get the most from your corn cob, stand it on end and, holding it firmly, cut off the kernels in long strips, then break them up with your hands. Next, use a spoon to scrape all the mushy pulp and milk out of the cob. The milk, scrapings and cob itself are starchy and rich, and make a powerful flavour enhancer in soups, stocks and chowders; the milk and cobs can also be used to make corn stock or today’s surprisingly delicious corn ice-cream.

Don’t waste the husks, either: dry them and use in tamales, a Mesoamerican dish of maize dough wrapped in corn husks and steamed. The corn silks, meanwhile, can be turned into a medicinal tea used for inflammation, diabetes and other ailments simply by steeping them in hot water. It’s an acquired taste, true, but one that’s worth researching.

Corn cob ice-cream

Buy and eat corn as fresh as possible to catch it at its sweetest. Look for maize in their husks and store in the fridge, because that way they will keep fresher for longer. A good fresh cob will yield a good quantity of corn pulp and milk, a starchy, flavourful substance that is traditionally used to boost the corn flavour of all kinds of dishes. To make creamed corn for two, cut the kernels off of a large corn, then scrape out the pulp and milk using a soup spoon. Simmer with 25ml each of cream and water for 10 minutes, until the cream begins to thicken. Season with salt and pepper and finish with a knob of butter.

I think corn works equally as well in desserts, where it adds a rounded, satisfying flavour. This ice-cream uses the spent cobs as well as the pulp and milk, because it, too, holds plenty of flavour. The sweet, subtle flavour of corn infused into this ice-cream is surprisingly delicious.

3 corn cobs, kernels shaved off and saved for another dish
250ml double cream
200ml whole milk
2 eggs
25g unrefined sugar

Scrape the pulp and milk from the spent corn cobs into a heavy-based pan. Cut the cobs into pieces and add them, too, along with the double cream and milk. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to very low, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar for five minutes, until very thick. Strain the hot corn milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly, then return the mix to the pan on a very low heat. Cook, stirring, for a few minutes, to thicken, then strain into a container and leave to cool. Churn in an ice-cream machine, or freeze over several hours, whisking every two hours, until set.