On Wednesday we got together for dinner and a movie. I volunteered to cook and decided to make pastel de choclo. I’m not sure about the exact translation, it is something like “corn pie” but it doesn’t involve any pastry. It’s more like a shepherd’s pie but with a sort of corn soufflé instead of mashed potatoes. I wouldn’t normally attempt to prepare a Peruvian recipe that features corn in Australia because corn here tastes completely different, but most pastel de choclo recipes call for sugar, so the result taste-wise is close enough.
Now, the texture is an issue. Australian corn has more water and less starch than Peruvian corn. That means that the pie won’t be really solid when ready and you’re better off baking each serving in a ramekin instead of doing it in a baking pan and cutting off portions, as it’s commonly done in Peru. I’m on a mission to find a better way of cooking it.
The middle layer of the pie is what I call the Peruvian all-purpose filling: minced beef, onion, garlic, yellow chilli, black olives and raisins. It’s used in plenty of dishes like empanadas, arroz tapado, rocoto relleno, caigua rellena, papa rellena, and yuca rellena. In case you’re wondering, relleno(a) means “stuffed”, and yes, you can stuff chillies, tomatoes, and pretty much anything you like with this filling. You can swap the beef for chicken, turkey, or the doubtfully healthy textured soy protein (a.k.a. soy “meat”).
As with every dish, there are many ways of preparing it. Some people add grated Parmesan to the corn mix, which I like in the vegetarian version that uses cheese instead of the beef filling. Some people add yellow chilli paste to the corn mix, too, which is good if you have the right chillies.
The best side for this dish is a fresh salad with plenty of greens. I prepared a simple salad with mixed leaves, cucumber, tomato, avocado, coriander, lime juice, salt and pepper. Basic but effective.
For dessert I made arroz con leche (rice pudding) and mazamorra morada (purple corn pudding). The rice pudding was made from scratch (the recipe will be published here some day), but because there’s no purple corn in Australia, the mazamorra morada came from a package sent by my mum. I have a strong aversion to processed food in general, specially in this case, in which the fake stuff tastes like lollies instead of the real deal. To give it a bit of natural flavour I boiled the water with pineapple skin and cinnamon sticks before adding the powder. Then I added some cubed pineapple, currants and prunes.
Some people (me included) like to eat a portion of arroz con leche and a portion of mazamorra morada in the same bowl/cup. This combo is commonly called combinado (“combined”), in the old days people used to call it sol y sombra (“sun and shadow”) due to the contrast of colours.
Pastel de choclo
Yield: 8 servings
Adapted from Yanuq.
8 corn cobs
¾ cup milk
¾ cup butter
2 tablespoons pisco (optional)
4 eggs, divided
½ k minced beef
1 ½ tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon powdered yellow chilli
1 medium brown onion, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
3 black olives, chopped
1 tsp coriander, chopped
Preheat oven to 160°C.
Blend corn kernels with milk in food processor or blender.
Melt butter in big pan over low heat. Add corn mix and stir thoroughly. Add salt and pepper. Cook for 10 minutes until thick.
Remove from heat and let cool down. Add pisco.
Whisk egg yolks until pale. Add to corn mix. Whisk egg whites to soft peaks. Gently fold in corn mix.
Heat oil in a pan. Sautee onion, garlic and chilli. Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Add beef. Let cook and add raisins.
Oil 8 ramekins and pour half of the corn mix. Cover with filling. Cover with boiled egg slices, olives and coriander. Pour the rest of the corn mix and sprinkle sugar on top.
Bake for 40-50 minutes.