Corn (or maize)
Does corn contain gluten?
The simple answer is no, the maize plant is gluten free. However, the confusion here lays in the fact that in the US cornstarch is sometimes a combination of corn and wheat flours and therefore should not be eaten if you are on a gluten free diet.
Having said that, the soft white powder known as cornflour in the UK is totally safe. It is ideal for thickening sauces, gravies and soups, by first mixing with a little cold water into a paste and then adding it to the other ingredients. This avoids a lumpy result.
Cornmeal is ground from dried maize and although it be can be labelled, coarse, medium or fine they are all grittier than wheat flour.
Corn is used worldwide, although it is mainly grown in the USA where it is a key ingredient of cornbread. This is a quick bread made with baking powder instead of yeast. However, some cornbread recipes include wheat flour, so do be careful.
Another US favourite is corn grits, served as a side dish or breakfast cereal. This is made from hominy, which is the hulled grain from which the bran and germ has been removed. Before cooking the grits resemble fine sand but when cooked the dish has a smooth texture.
If you travel to Mexico you are likely to encounter corn tortillas. These are simple to make at home especially if you have a tortilla press which helps to ensure a good shape of uniform thickness.
In Jamaica you may be served cornmeal pudding, but again this can contain wheat flour so beware!
Polenta is an Italian dish where traditionally the cornmeal is cooked slowly for a long time. Constant stirring is necessary. When cooked it can be shaped and fried or grilled, often with the addition of flavourings such as cheese or tomato sauce.