You might have come across cornbread via Texan-style chilli or as part of a Thanksgiving supper. My first experience was on Christmas Day 2005 in Cape Town at my best friend Sjaniel’s house made by her mum. Sweet, crumbly, moist, it was exactly what you might imagine — totally moreish and totally bizarre with the rest of my Christmas dinner, all while wearing factor 50 sun cream at the height of Cape Town summer in December.

This year I thought I’d do a bit of a different take on this — not everyone has a taste for parsnips but for me they are a must on the Christmas table, so I thought they might make a good substitute to sweet corn as a seasonal update to cornbread. To make it festive and extra tasty I’ve added a bit of Kapha-balancing heat with black pepper and chilli, as well as fennel seeds and a touch of maple syrup to pull out the flavours.

Simply bake in a square or rectangular dish and cut into squares to serve, or use a round dish and cut into wedges, or try baking in star-shaped silicone moulds or a muffin tray.

I find that leaving the batter to stand before cooking makes for a softer cornbread. That said, I’ve never had trouble with this cornbread and I’m not too precise when it comes to making it so… dare I say “foolproof?” Give it a go, don’t overdo the salt or chilli and you should end up with something very tasty for the table on the big day.




Serves 10

300g fine cornmeal or polenta
2 tsp baking powder
Scant 1 tsp salt
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes, plus extra for decorating
1 tbsp fennel seeds
2 large eggs
300ml almond milk (unsweetened)
2 tbsp ghee/butter, melted (or sunflower oil), plus extra for greasing
300g parsnips, grated
2 tbsp maple syrup (or jaggery)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C fan.

  2. If you are using a baking dish, choose a 20-centimetre (approx.) squared one and grease well.

  3. Put the cornmeal/polenta, baking powder, salt, pepper and chilli into a large bowl and mix together.

  4. Beat the eggs, maple syrup, apple cider vinegar, almond milk and butter/ghee/oil thoroughly, then mix into the large bowl and leave to rest for 10 minutes while you grate the parsnip.

  5. Fold in the grated parsnip.

  6. Divide the batter amongst the muffin cases and evenly smooth into the corners or pour the batter into the prepared dish. Spread evenly with the top of a spoon or spatula, then sprinkle with a few extra chilli flakes to decorate.

  7. Bake for 15- 20 minutes for the cupcakes or 30 if baking in a dish, until risen and only very lightly coloured on the edges.

  8. Leave to cool slightly before removing from the cases or slicing into squares. Eat warm or allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container somewhere cool.

East by West tip: Don’t be tempted to overcook these and make them crunchy or crispy as you risk drying them out. An alternative to corn is millet — make sure you soak it overnight first and drain well, then give it a good grind to break it down a bit without turning it too smooth and reduce the amount of almond milk you use. This is a nice dish for kids too — you can remove the chilli and add a little parmesan (reduce the salt slightly) if you like.