Years ago, when my oldest son was diagnosed as gluten-intolerant and allergic to the whey in cow’s milk, there were very few gluten-free/cow dairy-free options. Today gluten-free foods abound in Portland and elsewhere, but it’s still a challenge for my son to find places to eat. This experience got me thinking: What if there were a world where wheat and cow’s milk played only a minor role in people’s diets?
When I did my research for creating Awan cuisine, I realized that not every culture relied on these ingredients. Native Americans did not use wheat until they were forced to move onto reservations, and the ancient Hebrews relied heavily on goats and sheep. So most tribes on Awan, including the Uriah, use non-gluten grains and either goat and/or sheep’s milk.
In this recipe, my husband and I use goat kefir. Kefir is a fermented milk drink made with bacteria, a little like yogurt. It’s popular in Eastern and Northern Europe, and has become a favorite in my household because we love the tangy flavor. We purchase it in the health food section of grocery stores. If you don’t have an allergy to cow dairy, you can substitute cow kefir or buttermilk as well as unsalted cow butter.
While I agree that gluten-free baking can be challenging, when the results are good, they are often really good. Personally, I like this cornbread much better than versions that add wheat flour. It is lighter and has a wonderful corn flavor.
1 cup ground cornmeal
1/4 cup masa
1/2 cup rice flour
1/4 cup amaranth flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/3 cup goat kefir
8 tablespoons unsalted goat butter
Place a 9-inch cast iron skillet in oven and preheat to 425 degrees F.
Combine all dry ingredients (cornmeal, masa, rice flour, amaranth flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda) in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, beat eggs lightly. Add the goat kefir to the eggs and whisk together. Add the egg and kefir mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a whisk until fully combined. Cut butter into pieces. Remove the hot cast iron pan from oven and add the butter to the pan to melt. Carefully swirl the butter in the pan to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the melted butter into the batter. Stir to combine. Pour the batter into the pan. If necessary, distribute the batter evenly using a knife or offset spatula. Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Place a cooling rack on top of the pan and carefully flip it over. Once cool, place a plate on top of the cornbread and carefully flip the cornbread onto the plate.
Many of the Awan tribes make cornbread. Southerners, such as the Sakhar tribe, omit the sugar and add a diced jalapeno pepper.