Be comforted this winter with my Abuelita's Chilean Pastel De Choclo.
Having Chilean roots has played a significant part in my upbringing. My abuelita (grandmother) Silvia was the first to immigrate to Australia, and my parents followed close behind her. My Abuelita was born and raised in the capital of Chile, Santiago and worked as a seamstress in her heyday, making dresses for the presidents wife of Chile, which of course she never brags about. She is my direct link to the South American food which I have grown up with and love. And because I'm all about preserving that delicious link of flavours, I asked her to make me one of my favourites “Pastel De Choclo”, a popular Chilean corn based dish, translating in English directly to "pie of corn".
I originally thought that this recipe would be a straightforward one, but the small intricacies and details in this Chilean comfort food is what makes it so amazingly rich and moorish. The ingredients give it the divine balance of sweet & salty. At the base a mince meat mixture of onions, raisins and spices (spices my Abuelita, has grown in her garden and dried out, may I add). Traditionally you also add a boiled egg and a Spanish olive, followed by a layer of boiled drumstick chicken. But the real star of the dish is the creamed corn, a brilliantly yellow and velvety mixture with the help of our old friends butter & milk, and in my opinion perfectly acceptable to be devoured by the spoonful.
This dish is one that my abuelita remembers her mother making (my great-grandmother Maria), saying she never noted down the exact recipe, but recalls helping in the kitchen with this Chilean classic. This recipe is how she recalls her mother making it, and needless to say, I think her memory has served her well.
The dish is traditionally served in individual portions, in a dish called “paila de greda”, a clay pot common to Chile, which retains the heat of the dish without drying out the protein. If you don't have these artisanal beauties never fear, you can still devour the pie, using a cast iron or casserole dish, you are in business.
I present to you this third generation recipe that is now yours to be enjoyed, may you be transported high into the Andean mountain range followed by a full belly.
KEEPSAKE RECIPE: Abuelita’s Pastel De Choclo
Prep time: 1 hour, Cook time: 1 hour, Total time: 2 hours, Serves: 6
- 500gm extra lean beef mince
- 4 large chicken drumsticks
- 12 - 16 ears of corn
- 1 large onion
- 4 eggs
- ½ Cup of raisins
- 150ml milk
- 1 tbsp butter
- 1 clove garlic
- Small handful of basil
- 5 olives
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Icing sugar (optional)
- Pull the skin off the meat
- Boil in a pot of salted water, adding enough water to cover the chicken
- Cook on medium heat until cooked, this will take about half an hour. Get started on your mince meat now.
- Let cool, then tear the pieces off the bone
- Don’t throw away the stock! Adding just a few ingredients will give you simple Chilean soup ( look out for this)
MINCE MEAT MIXTURE
- Roughly dice onion and garlic
- Pop pan on medium to high heat
- Throw olive oil into the pan and cook onion and garlic for a few minutes
- Throw beef into the pan just as the onions are starting to turn transulcent
- Add 2 heaped tsps of paprika, 1 tsp oregano and salt and pepper to taste
- Add 100ml of boiled water to keep the mixture moist
- Set aside
- OPTIONAL: If it’s still too dry, add some chicken stock to it after you boil your chicken
EXTRA BITS AND BOBS
- Soak raisins in boiling water to rehydrate them
- Boil 2 eggs and cut them into quarters
CREAMED CORN MIXTURE
- (This component can be done the night before to save you time)
- Shuck and wash corn
- Use a knife to take corn off the cob
- Put the corn in a food processor along with some basil and whiz it up until it’s creamed together nicely
- OPTIONAL: You can add a heaped teaspoon of sugar to the mixture if you’ve got a sweet tooth
- In a pan, add butter and cook the corn mixture.
- Cook this on a high heat initially then turn it down low, adding milk and butter to keep the mixture moist. Make sure you keep mixing it so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.
- This will take about 30 minutes to cook.
- Once finished, add salt to taste, but make sure the corn is sweeter than it is salty
- OPTIONAL: Separate the yolks and whites of 2 eggs, then whisk the whites until they’re foamy and aerated. Add the yolks to your creamed corn first, then the whites. Mixing it together quickly so it doesn’t go lumpy
ASSEMBLE DISH AND BAKE
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees
- Butter the bottom of your baking dish or paila's
- Put the mince mixture at the bottom
- Sprinkle raisins on top
- Add pieces of chicken
- Pop a slice of egg and an olive on top
- Then heap on the creamed corn
- Sprinkling with icing sugar
- Cook for 35-45 mins or until the top is golden and crispy
- Best served with a typical Chilean salad on top of peeled tomatoes and onion