Chilean Corn Pie

Just over a week ago on 18 September we celebrated Chile’s National Independence Day. An occasion I look forward to each year as there is no better reason to make some of Chile’s favourite recipes. Chileans proclaim it as ‘el dieciocho’ (the eighteenth), it is celebrated over a week with fiestas patrias (national festivals) across the country. This includes parades, drinking, eating traditional Chilean food, folkloric music and plenty of dancing, like the cueca, a traditional dance created by the huasos (Chilean cowboys).

On this festive day I normally invite friends, we share stories of our birthplaces and childhood memories that I find are full of food experiences. What else besides food and culture brings people closer together around a table. We are lucky in Australia to have so many different cultures that enrich this country with their foods and heritage.

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el pino (beef mixture)

For this occasion I made a true Chilean masterpiece, one of many corn-based dishes, Pastel de Choclo (Chilean Corn Pie), it brings an unforgettable aroma of golden corn, beef mixture similar to that used in empanadas. Traditionally it is served in clay dishes but an oven proof dish will do.
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layer of chicken pieces, eggs and olives

A recent Chilean survey found that the humble Pastel is the most popular dish in ChileIt is filled with beef, onions, chicken, olives, egg and topped with a creamy corn paste. The choclo (corn) used in Chile is a heirloom variety, first brought to the land from its Mexican heartland around 2500 BCE.
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Cooking the creamy corn mixture

Pity we cannot find this variety here, it has a larger cob with white kernels, not like the super sweet hybrids we find here that are frankly a bit one-dimensional, sugary with not a lot of corn flavour. But don’t let this stop you from making this delicious dish, find the freshest corn out there and you’ll get pretty close to this Chilean masterpiece. Best served with a nice Chilean red, like a Carmenere or Cabernet Sauvignon.
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Recipe (serves 6)
  • 6 corns
  • 2 chicken Maryland cuts
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 200 ml milk
  • 3 hard-boiled eggs, slice into quarters
  • 3 tablespoons of pitted black olives
  • 2 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • salt

Beef mixture (el pino):

  • 600g  beef mince
  • 2 large brown onions chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground chilli
  • salt and pepper
Preparation

For the beef mixture saute the onions in olive oil until they become translucent. Add the cumin, paprika and chilli, continue to saute for around one minute. Add the beef, salt and pepper and mix all ingredients well until the meat is browned. Set aside and allow to cool. Add water to a pot and bring to the boil, add chicken and gently simmer the pieces for thirty minutes. Pull the skin off and de-bone the chicken flesh, set aside to cool.

Slice kernels from the cob, and grind them in a food processor. Heat butter and oil in a pot, add ground corn and cook it slowly, stirring constantly. Gradually add the milk, add salt and basil. Continue stirring until the mixture thickens. Spread the beef mixture in your oven dish, add chicken, eggs and olives. Top with the thick layer of corn and place in a very hot oven until the corn begins to crisp and brown.
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