This is just the sort of thing I love to eat when I’m at a low ebb mid-afternoon, as its lip-smacking flavors jolt the senses, seduce the taste buds, and make you want to punch your fist in the air for being alive. The key here is getting the right levels of chile, lemon, and salt—I like mine on the upper edge of what’s acceptable. Start slow and keep on adding, tasting and adjusting each ingredient until it’s perfect for you. This is good by itself, but you can also serve it with hot chapatis (see here).
4 ears of corn, or 2 x 12-ounce cans of sweet corn, drained
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, crushed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground red chile (plus extra to serve)
just over ½ teaspoon salt
2½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ a red onion, finely diced
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
a handful of sev (chickpea noodles)
1 lemon, quartered, to serve
If you’re using fresh corn, pull off the husks and any loose silky threads. Bring a pan of water to a boil and carefully lower in the corn. Boil for around 8 minutes, until tender. Drain, then wash under cold water. To slice off the kernels, make sure the ear sits flat (slice off the stem on the bottom if not) and place in a shallow dish. Hold the pointy end firmly with one hand and, with the other, slice close to the core, letting the blade move down the ear of corn.
Set a large frying pan over medium heat and, when hot, put the cumin into it. Stir-fry for a minute, until you can smell it, then add the butter and let it melt. Turn the heat up and, when the pan starts to smoke, add the corn. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes—don’t stir too frequently, so it has a chance to blacken and caramelize, but watch out as the odd kernel may pop. When the corn has a good amount of color, add the black pepper, ground red chile, salt, and lemon juice and let it sizzle off.
Divide the corn between four plates and scatter over the red onion, cilantro, and sev. Sprinkle a little ground red chile over the top and place a wedge of lemon on the side.