Return of the barbecue beans: cornbread topping

Remember when I made this post about barbecue beans, I said I was going to serve them with a barbecue pork tenderloin and cornbread muffins? Well, I had planned to cook this for our friends who came to stay this weekend.

I couldn’t remember which Nigella book the cornbread muffin recipe was from (I hadn’t made them for literally YEARS), so I took a guess at Feast. I looked in the index for cornbread, and there was no cornbread muffin recipe there, but there WAS a recipe for chilli with a cornbread topping. I thought this sounded much better than the muffins (and would be easier to eat as part of a finished dish) so I made sure I had all the ingredients.

When it came to making it, the recipe specified the amount of ingredients for a ‘very large pan’, as the chilli recipe was to serve around 30 people. I was making the beans in my Le Creuset 20cm casserole, so I decided to half the mixture after thinking that something double the size of my casserole would be pretty large.

So I made the batter and spread it on the top of the beans and grated the cheese on top. When I took it out of the oven it had risen to the top of the pan, which was slightly suspicious as the beans had barely half-filled it. When we cut into it I could instantly see my error – the cornbread was about 5 inches thick, and to top that it had absorbed a lot of the sauce from the beans (obviously this is why they say never try anything you’ve not made before when you have guests!). BUT, despite these setbacks, it was really tasty and the cheesy topping was particularly good. In future I could half the mixture again and probably still have some to spare. I grossly misunderestimated how much the polenta would swell on cooking.

So, below is the recipe as it appears in the book, in the correct quantities for a VERY LARGE pan. You can reduce accordingly.

Cornbread Topping


1 1/2 teaspoons salt

650g cornmeal

4 tablespoons plain flour

6 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

750ml buttermilk

4 eggs

2 teaspoons honey

4 tablespoons vegetable oil

150g Cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

The method couldn’t be simpler – you just weigh out the dry ingredients and put them into a bowl. Whisk up the wet ingredients and then combine the two to make a thick batter.

Spoon (or dollop) this over the top of the beans and then grate over the cheese. Put into an oven heated to 220C for about 20-30 minutes until it’s risen and golden on top. Enjoy!