Sweetcorn, chicken and chipotle soup

ChickenSweetcornSoup © J Horak-Druiff 2011


There are some words in the English language that arrive briskly and on time; sensibly dressed; do their job quietly, and move on.  Words like safe, sorry, train, paper, sun, yard, end.  But then you get the other words.  You know, words that flit into your speech like exotic tropical dragonflies, in sequinned ballgowns, 6-inch red patent leather heels and feather boas, leaving in their wake a perfume so compelling that you can’t get it out of your head for days.  Words that have such a sensual and foreign feel in your mouth that you tuck them away quietly in your cheek and bring them out furtively in private moments, to repeat to yourself over and over again, just because you like the slightly illicit way they feel on your tongue.

While I was doing some reading ahead of writing this post, I entered a single ingredient into Google to look for synonyms.  What came back were the following words.  Go on – say them out loud to yourself.  You know you want to.







Humdingers in sequins, one and all, I’m sure you will agree (although especially the final one!). Anybody want to venture a guess as to the word I entered into Google to come up with this selection of eclectic tongue-pleasers?

The word was “mealie”.  Still confused, my non-South African readers?  It’s the South African word for sweetcorn or maize, a staple in most South Africans’ (and indeed sub-Saharan Africans’) diet, in one form or another.  Whereas most European languages went with some permutation of mais as their term for maize, it seems that Dutch (and by extension Afrikaans) went with a corruption of the Portuguese milho – hence mealie. It has been one of my favourite foods since childhood.

Upon arrival in the UK, I was most disappointed to find that the South African store cupboard essential creamed sweetcorn is not something that regularly appears on British supermarket shelves – the only place I have seen it is the speciality “international foods” aisle, or in Chinese supermarkets.  It is a food that reminds me of childhood and comfort and is one of the few things that I will happily eat out of the can with a spoon if left unattended and to my own devices. Although no tins of creamed sweetcorn were harmed in the making of this soup, the sweetly creamy flavour does a pretty good impression of my childhood favourite.  The chicken adds a bit of protein to make it a proper one-pot meal; and the smoky depth of flavour that the chipotle adds warms the cockles of the heart.

And when you’re done flirting with those exotic words, I guarantee that this soup will feel just as good wrapping itself around your tongue.

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like some of my other soup recipes:




2 tbsp olive oil
50g butter
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
100g raw potato, cut into small cubes
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
about 2 cups sweetcorn kernels (I used the kernels from 2 cobs)
600ml hot vegetable stock
100ml double cream
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp chipotle chile paste


Chop the chicken breast into small bite-sized pieces.  Season generously with salt and pepper (I used a little chilli salt on mine). Heat half a tablespoon of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and fry the chicken bits until just cooked through.  Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and keep warm.

In the same pan, melt the butter together with the rest of the olive oil over a medium heat. Once the butter has melted completely add the garlic, onion and potato and sauté for five minutes, until softened. Add the sweetcorn, reserving a handful of kernels to add at the end for texture, and continue to cook for two more minutes.

Add the stock, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to simmer for five to ten minutes, until the potato has cooked through.  Stir in the cream and chipotle paste and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Using a wand blender, or a food processor, process the soup until smooth.  Then add the chicken pieces and reserved whole kernels to the soup and return to the heat until heated through. Serve hot, with more chipotle paste if desired.

And in other news…

It is with great pleasure that I announce the 2011 Food and Wine Blogger Indaba! This event was held for the first time in 2009 and I was honoured to be asked to speak.  The good news is that I will be speaking again and hosting workshops on kickstarting your writing and photographyat this year’s event in Cape Town!  Bookings are streaming in and tickets are selling fast – so if you are a food or wine blogger or if you are interested in becoming one, the Indaba is the place to be on 20 February 2011. Book now!

Dont forget to check out the series of posts we are running on the Plate to Page workshop blog featuring writers and photographers we adminre – Lael Hazan is the current featured writer. The May 2011 Plate to Page hands-on food writing and photography workshop is now sold out – but register now if you are interested in attending Plate to Page II in Tuscany, Italy in Autumn 2011.

My 2011 calendars are now available!  They are A3 size, printed on high quality heavy paper and make the perfect gift – for foodies, for those who love London or Italy or the beach – or those who simply love my Saturday Snapshots! And at £15.51 each they are an affordable luxury.

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  1. says

    but you didn’t tell us what those glam words mean – I am intrigued
    and I love tinned creamed corn – didn’t have it much in my childhood but it still seems like comfort food

  2. says

    I think I’d prefer to be flocculent that furfuraceous! Great post Jeanne. I love how sensual words lead into sensual soups!
    Our home-grown mealies are just about finished but they were incomparable to the sad things bought in shops, even here in SA – sweet and tender and full of sunshine. I’ve yet to try creamed mealies… still not totally acclimatised to SA in a culinary sense!

  3. says

    I love trying to become a thesaurus. I keep a list of words that mean delicious next to my computer at all times. I didn’t realize mealie meant maize. I spelled it incorrectly, and thought it was “mealy” the taste of apples when they get old.
    However, that doesn’t’ seem to be anything like your: ambrosial, appetizing, enticing, scrumptious, tempting, palatable, gratifying, distinctive…… post :)

  4. says

    I love the combination of sweetcorn and chipotle, its gorgeous. Where did you find the chipotle paste? I’m curious because my best friend lives over there and can never find it, so I end up lugging a carry-on full of canned chipotle to the UK.

  5. says

    Guess what I am prepping in my kitchen rigth now? This soup – it made me smile as my mum always made a variation of this when I was ill and now as I am feeling uner the weather it seems you my sister have taken charge to make me feel better at least virtually – dragonflies, feather boas and all. Just the butterflies missing ;o)

  6. says

    Love the sound of this! Adore creamed sweetcorn, one of my favourite things in the world are my granny’s farm-fresh sweetcorn fritters. As I’m in SA could I substitute your whole corn for creamed sweetcorn do you think? And do you know of an SA alternative to Chipotle Paste? Yum!

  7. mademarian says

    You had me going there for a while, I thought you were going to tell us about chipotle – (I still dont know what that is)
    How glamorous you’ve made good old mielies sound! Im sure the mielie lady who has just walked past my house would be intrigued.

  8. says

    Oh I love words! I sit with my Thesaurus and look for such glam and shimmer and shine and then try and use them… Your list is fab and now I want to play the game!
    I always loved canned corn and we ate it often growing up, even creamed corn. But it always makes me think back with horror of my mom eating cold creamed corn right out of the can. She loved it! I was rightly horrified! Now, your soup is another story….

  9. says

    I DID say those words, and they felt marvelous. :-) This post made me smile so big. I haven’t read such a glorious ode to delectable words in a long time. Splendid. :-)

  10. says

    Here is Similar Story
    Heat butter in a pan. Add onion, and fry until transparent. Stir in flour, remove from heat and add water and milk gradually. Return to heat, stirring until thickened. Add un drained sweet corn to the pan and season to taste. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, pre-heat grill. Cut rashers in half lengthways and form into rolls. Grill and serve in soup. Garnish with chopped chives.

  11. says

    I must admit to feeling pretty flocculent this evening, as my boss had been terribly sabulous to me all day, regarding my apparently psammous attempt to recreate a pulverulent dish of farninaceous vegetables for our company lunch, but you’ve cheered me up no end with that ridiculous word – Furfuraceous! Hilarious!